Adrian Van Allen
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TITLE: Natura Historia (Revised)
DATE: 2009
MEDIA: monotypes on topography charts + maps

In the winter of 2009 while I was reading Pliny the Elder's Natural History, I started to experiment with various transfer-printing methods. Using my collection of animal skeleton drawings as fodder, I eventually developed a method of using color laser prints as the printing "plate". For paper, I dug into my flat files and found a stash of decommissioned geological maps. Combining the two proved interesting, and I began to build up a my personal zoo.

Now faced with dozens of prints of various creatures, I started to think about organization. 

The natural world from Pliny's perspective offered an interesting glimpse into a different world: his Natural History offers advice on everything from bee husbandry to unicorn traps. I decided to create a vertebrate bestiary that followed the principles laid out by Pliny, including not only the cryptozoology he seemed so fond of, but also the taxonomical structure: organisms categorized by mode of locomotion, from slithering to flapping to prancing. My skeleton collection provided all the necessary parts, and I began to build unicorns, chimeras and flying raccoons to fill out my bestiary  to Pliny's spec, modifying as needed to fill in "missing links" between flying and scampering, for example.

Printing itself seemed to offer up a metaphor for the evolutionary process: creations of multiples, overlaid and overlapping until one shifts slightly and there's a new trajectory for a different run. Schisms and shifts in endless cycles. The layers of schematic information intersected nicely, too: rivers and roads became veins and arteries; mountain ranges transformed into musculature;  map keys and chart data flowed into the bodies of the animals and took on zoological implications.

The shifts in thinking about the natural world came to the fore as well. Organizing animals based on locomotion seems remarkably logical from a certain perspective, and I added another layer of schematic information into the mix by creating a museum label for each animal print . Each label contained the creature's 17th century scientific taxonomic name (still in use today alongside DNA sequencing), it's common name, and it's number in the timeline sequence. And what would a scientific chart be with a key of it's own? So I created one, listing each animal by scientific name, common name and mode of locomotion, the key labeled by another museum label.

‘Natura Historia (Revised)' for me can be imagined as concentric circles of classification and abstraction; schemes for classification overlaid and overlapping until there's a shift, and as a result a new direction for organizing the natural world.