Rei Hayama, Hollow-Hare-Wallaby, 2023
The Eastern hare-wallaby, a marsupial once thriving in Australia, likely faced extinction by the late 19th century. Changes in its habitat, triggered by the introduction of European rabbits and red foxes, are implicated in its demise. Approximately 50 years after British ornithologist John Gould first identified the species, records of its ecology are scarce. Presently, the Eastern hare-wallaby exists only in taxidermied specimens, prints, and drawings. Despite its disappearance, the preserved representations evoke a sense of familiarity, creating the illusion that this marsupial still roams Australia's nature reserves today. Here, Rei Hayama draws our attention to extinction and its ties to anthropocentrism. She breaks us out of our sense of familiarity by foregrounding the historic and contemporary human hand in the presentation of the uncannily familiar animal. In this CG scan, the viewer roams around the animal, which is itself depicted as a taxidermied form, until finally entering the body, under its skin and into the hollow artificial interior. At a time when we are living in what is referred to as the sixth mass extinction era of planet Earth, this video serves as a poignant reminder of our complicity in such events. Hayama has said herself that, ‘the extinction of a species is a gut-wrenching fact, and at the same time, an extraordinary occurrence that feels as if being sucked into the darkness of the universe’. The viewer is sucked into the darkness of the universe here, by being sucked into the hollowed-out body of a creature that no longer exists. In an additional layering of the complicit hand, we are ourselves experiencing this specimen in an immaterial medium that requires overly extractive practices, just as detrimental to the Earth’s climate stability; the extraction of minerals for computing chips, the energy of mass servers, the exploitative labour practices of AI and machine learning that appears as a falsely inconsequential and ‘clean’ immateriality of technology. In this way, Hollow-Hare-Wallaby speaks to a sense of denial, of a sublimated empathy. And yet it also builds an underlying feeling of doom, maybe enough to jolt us out of our technologically mediated ambivalence.
|Single-channel video (ProRes422 HQ)
|16 minutes 37 seconds
|edition of 5