This past weekend, my friend bursts into the room, breathless and a little sweaty. “Sorry I’m late, but you guys won’t believe what I saw on the subway on the way over here!” She then proceeds to show us the following photo:
It’s a sea rabbit. She described how its little webbed feet were moving while she took photos, barely believing what she was seeing. She had spoken to the man who was holding it. According to this man, the animal was no longer found in the wild, but a group of conservationists were breeding them in captivity, hoping to reach a critical mass and then reintroduce them to nature. Needless to say, this was quite an interesting sighting–even for the subway in New York City–and made quite an impression on all of us. (More photos of her subway sighting can be seen on my friend’s flicker account.)
Later that evening, I received an email with the subject line: “Sea Rabbits are not real.” The animal she saw on the subway was apparently part of an exhibit by Japanese artist Takeshi Yamada, known as a “rogue taxidermist.” Yamada takes real parts from different animals (and some unnatural materials as well), and creates fake creatures, the sea rabbit being one of the more popular ones. According to an article in The Village Voice, Yamada’s other creations include a two-headed baby, Fiji mermaids, a seven-fingered hand and six-foot long deathworms. This blog post has pictures of many of his works, but be forewarned, some of the images are NSFW and are definitely not for the faint of heart!
When asked in the Village Voice article why he chooses to create such stunning and surprising works of art, Yamada answered, “The freakish is not a bad thing. It can represent the mystery of the universe. An expression of divinity. A blessing.” By combining ordinary objects and creatures and producing something that is so shocking, Yamada is showing just how fragile our perception of normal is, and that the line between this world and the abnormal is very small indeed.
Not surprisingly, Yamada’s exhibit that housed all the incredible things described above ran for 5 years at the Coney Island Library and Museum, a place renowned for its celebration of the extraordinary. But my friend’s recent sighting means Yamada is on the move again. As you can tell from the photo, it was actually him, walking around NYC with a sea rabbit tucked under his arm. I for one am looking forward to seeing where his pieces of art show up next. And if you see him on the subway carrying a sea rabbit, have fun pretending it’s real.