Sueños de Animal

Animal’s dream

In “Sueños de Animal” (1989) Valentin Vallhonrat develops a first essay on understanding the symbolic and ideal systematization of wild nature through the dioramas of a natural science museum. In them we try to recreate an image of wild life, like a domesticated landscape (because it is dissected) and suitable for the spectator’s gaze to find a close-up, impossible in reality, open to the intimacy of animals.

The scenographies of the dioramas in their theatricalisation of animal life also seek, apart from this landscape recreation, to introduce the spectacularity of transferring a fragment of the African savannahs or the tundra of the Arctic to the interior of a museum in a city. The detailed illustrations that the naturalists had recreated the nature in the books, the dioramas in their three-dimensionality try to recreate an experience of the distant and inaccessible.

In his images taken at the New York Science Museum, Valentín Vallhonrat uses photographic fiction to recover the photographic documentary of naturalism that especially in the first half of the 20th century replaced the box of pencils and watercolours with cameras (photographic and film), later in video) but from an imaginative sensitivity close to that of painting, taking advantage of the unreal textures of the painted backgrounds of the dioramas and resorting to frames that sometimes refer to the violent foreshortenings of a Paul de Vos in his hunting scenes, other times to the threatening figure of the tiger in the colourful jungles of the customs officer Rousseau.

The idea we have of nature passes through its ideal representations, and the dioramas summarise this idealisation as a summary of hunting, drawing and watercolour, taxidermy of realistic effects, sculpture, pictorial tradition and photographic and cinematographic naturalism.

The essay consists of summarizing all that and interpreting it, perhaps with the keys of a dream. Those same dioramas of the New York museum have been the object of attention by other photographers, but the results are diametrically opposed. On the other hand, Antoni Socías and Luis Pérez-Mínguez in their joint project RESNOU (carried out in 1989), integrate and make dialogue from the contrast (and nonsense) dioramas and real landscapes in diptychs or triptychs whose intention is to show the visual insanity. In Valentín Vallhonrat’s series, the panoramic frames, often placed at the height of the eyes of the animals or in the position corresponding to the pose adopted by the dissected animal, indicate a position at the gaze level of the animals and what he offers us is the panorama we would see, if we ourselves were inside their skins.

The effect does not stop having echoes of a certain “metaphysical” desolation, in which the human spectator becomes a little animal and the animal becomes a little man.