Zoos are obviously animal jails. They exist in our modern world only as a remnant of a time where we had no clue as to the rich inner workings of the non-human animal kingdom. It’s the height of arrogance to take wild animals, beautiful as they are, and lock them inside of open-air cages so little johnny and janie can learn about great and powerful mammalia in the flesh. (Any kid worth their innocent intelligence should ask the obvious - if these animals are so amazing, why are they here in this zoo?) So, knowing all of that, it should come as no surprise when, on occasion, one of those magnificent beauties try to free themselves from their incarceration. In this case, it was a giraffe, a Giraffa camelopardalis stuffed, that, taking stock of his life, and unable to shake his dreams of running in the savanna, dreams where he was running in the open, in family packs of five, finally and at long last made a break for the fences.
Fences, borders, these are all strange things. They’re man-made earth-scars, nothing more than ultimately futile attempts at delineating a natural world that defies real ownership and categorization. (Fences don’t go all the way down, and they certainly don’t go all the way up, after all). And yet - there they are, standing in place, halting the flow of natural ambulatory ambition like a dam on the soul. Human constructs or not, they’re still deadly. And on occasion - when they do their jobs well - as the did in this instance, they not only enforce the law of the border, but serve as a warning to all lions, zebras and antelope within eyesight that disobedience will not be tolerated. That their home and their fate is the zoo.
Rumors had it that a wildebeest escaped once. But they were only rumors. All anyone knew was that one made it for the fences and was never seen or heard from again.
Notes on SSA
A sad stuffed animal isn’t really sad, even though it looks sad. It has no internal life, it can’t, has no brain. And yet the phrase “sad stuffed animal” still makes sense. It’s still a phrase with meaning, even though it describes an utter impossibility. Which implies that the descriptor “sad” has a meaning that’s independent of the thing it’s describing- a meaning tied more to our interpretation of the stuffed animals internal life than the fact of that internal life itself. Meaning- “sadness” is a quality that we ascribe to external objects but that really emanates from ourselves. The stuffed animal cannot be sad and yet it is sad to look at, it’s an object without a mind and yet it elicits sympathy to look at it. It crosses the uncanny valley in a way a mannequin would never, by virtue of it’s expressive face and nonhuman form. Feeling bad for a sad stuffed animal is a way of communing with the soul of the world. It’s staring in awe and fear at a cave painting of a bear that cannot hurt us. It’s art at it’s most raw.
Anonymous said: what do they mean
First it’s important to note that the stuffed animals in this blog are always photographed untouched, in the circumstances in which they were found. They are never posed. That would be weird. They are all found looking like that in cities and alleyways and on sidewalks.
At the heart this project is a tension between how stuffed animals are supposed to look, and how they sometimes end of looking.
There two kinds of sad stuffed animals.
The first kind is a clean stuffed animal whose expression just happens to be sad or despondent. These are funny because they’re supposed to elicit joy, but they look their faces - if you look closely - are kinda sad. The tension between the intention of the stuffed animals’ creator and the expression of the object is the joke. Whoever made the stuffed animal was trying to make a thing that looks happy and makes kids happy but actually looks pretty miserable. That’s gag no.1.
The second kind of sad stuffed animal is one with a still-happy expression, but which has been thrown out, discarded or lost, and finds itself in a dirty, urban environment looking like a fuzzy bum that’s keeping to itself. The tension here is similar - between the object’s intended expression of internal life (that is - stuffed animals are by design supposed to be happy) - and it’s dejected and lost circumstances.
Here, it’s funny because it’s ironic, but also because we’re relieved of the burden of sympathizing with depressing things.
We know that the stuffed animals do not have an inner life. We know that they’re just dolls. The dolls only look like they’ve suffered. We know they haven’t. They have all the outward appearances of being miserable, but they’re not, because they’re not anything. How they found themselves discarded, dejected and dirty is just a cosmic coincidence. And so that’s at least a little funny, but it also makes you think.
We want to feel bad for a thing that looks so sad but we know that the stuffed animal doesn’t actually feel despondent (or anything at all) so the viewer can back away from that despondency. But doing so illustrates the converse, that the joy of a happy stuffed animal is also a kind of fraud, or at least the kind of pantomime that we want to engage with.
Lonely ol’ bear sitting forlorn on Sunday. Maybe Miley Cyrus could adopt him? She’s been really into stuffed-animal chic lately.
outside Hartford, CT
Shooting range bunny has had better days.