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Ulla Schildt is an artist who has been working with natural history exhibitions for many years.

  • Image of a glass case with the skeleton of a small monkey. The image is negative, with a rose tint. Photograph.
    © Ulla Schildt, Solaris # II, 2020. Preus museum Collection.

Her project started over 15 years ago when she visited the Natural History Museum in Oslo. What struck her was the silence of these exhibitions and at the same time she wondered about the way in which the animals and insects were exhibited.

Our natural history museums date back to a time when Europeans went out into the world and returned home with plants, insects and animals from distant regions, and they are an important part of the classification system created by Carl Linnaeus. The subjugation of new continents and extensive categorisation constitute an important background for many of today’s environmental challenges. Schildt's photographs are taken from this colonial world: there are images of greenhouses, exotic plants and preserved and stuffed animals.

Schildt is very environmentally conscious and has been concerned with the concept of the Anthropocene, which translates as "the age of man", which can definitely be seen in the context of such collections. Schildt says that exhibiting animals tells us as much about humans as it does about the animals. Her work expands on this idea in several ways. For example, the artist always returns to this indefinite fascination that set the whole project in motion.

She often emphasises the exotic and artificial aspects by distorting the colours in her photographs, and in doing so she highlights the artificial and human-centered features in these collections. For example, this applies in her solarised photo entitled Eden, Revisited #II from 2017. The plant was photographed in the world's largest greenhouse, the Eden Project in Cornwall – built on a former clay mine.

Another solarised image is of a skeleton of a baby gorilla that was purchased for the Natural History Museum's collection in Oslo in 1966. While the plant image is beautiful in its artificial expression, the gorilla baby skeleton seems to be alienated and abandoned in Schildt's depiction.

This text has been taken from an essay written for the exhibition catalogue by Christine Hansen, the co-curator of the exhibition.

Museum24:Portal - 2024.05.06
Grunnstilsett-versjon: 2