My Rhino is not a Myth
art | science | fictions
Albrecht Dürer, Rhinocerus, 1515, woodcut.
Courtesy: Collection of Prints and Drawings, ETH Zürich
The 5th edition of the Art Encounters Biennial My Rhino is not a Myth focuses on the intersection between art, science and fictions, by exploring their potential to reclaim reality as a mesh of complex processes. In between scientific explorations and imaginative speculation, it touches upon stories of the unknown and the drive to change, adapt or subvert.
Unfolding as many narrative threads, the biennial draws inspiration from a remarkable example of artistic and scientific imagination: Albrecht Dürer’s renowned work Rhinocerus, created in 1515 without the artist ever seeing the depicted animal. It was a response to a strange encounter, the first rhino traveling to the European continent since antiquity. But Ganda, as its Gujarati name was, reached Pope Leo X only as a taxidermic relic. Dürer’s imaginative woodcut became one of the most influential animal images, finding its way into scientific publications up until the 18th century and continuing to be incorporated into numerous artistic imageries long after.
With the Rhinocerus, the power of the imaginative reflects on both the artistic and scientific realm; on forms of collaborations that haven’t yet been systemized and divided in what modernity will frame as The Two Cultures: sciences and humanities. But Ganda was also a breathing being, one of the living artefacts serving as accessories of power. Its voyage around the world also mapped a geopolitical trajectory in all its haunting history of violence. Therefore, it tells a complex story of entangled places, manners of knowledge-making and a society in a profound process of change.
The title of the biennial ties a connection to the play Rhinocéros, written in 1959 by the Romanian-French author Eugène Ionesco. A response to the rise of authoritarian regimes and complicity, the original story envisions the inhabitants of a small, provincial village gradually turning into rhinoceroses, while constantly denying the undergoing mysterious process. My Rhino is not a Myth reclaims this power to resist forms of conformity, and instead relies on the imaginative abilities of science and art to create breaches into accepted truths, and address processes unaccounted for.
The biennial therefore proposes a crossover of art, science and fictions as new ways to look at things, underlining the vitality of their entanglement in the fabric of life and reality. They create “art-science-fictions” as a fluid exchange between scientific and artistic approaches that respond to changes in our lived realities, which are marked by environmental and social transformations.