Extinction and Reanimation

Watch it spin here


To use: Spin the device and bend down to look through the gaps. Keep your eyes focused on one point, and you’ll see!

The graceful underwater flight of the long-extinct great auk can be seen on this Victorian animation device- the zoetrope. Constructed from reclaimed wood, each of the twelve frames of the animation are painted with handmade oak gall ink on recycled paper. A precursor to film, the first appearance of the device in the mid-18th century parallels the disappearance of the great auk, last sighted in 1844.

The last extinction in the British Isles,  no one alive has ever truly seen a great auk in motion. Standing nearly 3ft tall, they were flightless and fearless around humans, for whom they were easy prey. Our relationship with the great auk was one of great cruelty; it was common practice that they were burned alive for fuel, or plucked of their feathers, fully conscious, and left to die. Their increasing rarity only intensified the lust of museums and private collectors, whose scramble to own skins and eggs for themselves spurred their demise.

The fate of the last great auk in Britain was decided by three fishermen. For three days they kept it alive, and bound, until they found themselves at the mercy of a terrible storm. Suspecting the bird of conjuring the storm, they branded it a witch, and beat it to death with a stick. None were seen here again.

The only remaining colony, in Iceland, was slaughtered in the name of preservation– by museums. The very last great auks in the world were a pair, found incubating their egg. It was smashed with a boot. They were strangled. Recent research confirms that humans were entirely responsible for the loss of this species.

Extinctions are now occurring with alarming frequency. Scientists believe we are sleepwalking into Earth’s sixth mass extinction. As habitats are destroyed, and overfishing, hunting, and climate change ravage wildlife worldwide, we are dismantling our own life support system. It was once assumed that we did not have the power to wipe out an entire species, let alone the whole web of biodiversity on which all life depends. It is time to face the truth.


Also sold separately:

Zoetrope (58x41cm)

The Witch (13x7cm * 12 auk paintings)
mounted and framed £600
unframed £500

*percentage will be donated to environmental causes

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