We have an innate need to investigate the world; to observe, record, collect and present our discoveries for others to appreciate. This urge to seek out and gather novel organisms for contemplation and display is exemplified by the “Wunder Kammer” or cabinets of curiosities of Renaissance Europe. The most prized specimens in any collection are those that diverge from the norm or defy classification. Although it is our nature to categorize and define, we relish the sense of wonder that accompanies an enigma.
The parameters of what is acceptable in terms of collecting, categorizing and display are constantly shifting depending on cultural context. This play between objectivity and subjectivity within scientific practice is an intriguing lens through which to observe human nature.
Ironically, the qualities that animate living organisms are highlighted by captivity and containment; the rigid materials associated with collection and display devices enhance contrasting biological tissue. Traps, cages, and vitrines serve well as foils for the luminous softness of living flesh.