The Cabinet of Curiosities
44th ANNUAL NY VILLAGE HALLOWEEN PARADE. OCTOBER 31, 2017
In 1842 PT Barnum stitched the head of a monkey onto a stuffed fish, and the Fiji Mermaid was born. We laugh now, but Barnum's Museum was the Carnivalesque forerunner of what became the modern science museum. Barnum straddled a past in which Cabinets of Curiosity merged real and imaginary natural relics, and a future where genomic engineering promises to unleash a host of hybrids into our midst.
Halloween, of course, revels in hybrids, mash-ups and the frisson of crossed identities. We know, as Mary Shelley did in 1818, that the scariest thing in Frankenstein was not the monster but the Doctor, who dared to create new life from a patchwork of disparate and disembodied parts. Over time, the human urge to re-imagine life has fed obsessions with Sasquatch footprints, blurry Loch Ness Monsters photos, and Chupacabra crime scenes. The Fiji Mermaid is alive and well, and our collective Cabinet of Wonder has grown exponentially. Where Barnum and Dr. Frankenstein once used needle and thread, today's molecular biologists now use CRISPR/CAS technology, but the result is the same: the sleep of reason can breed monsters.
So, with Frankenstein's bicentennial approaching, PAW decided to build its own Cabinet of Wonder for NY's 44th Annual Village Halloween Parade, calling on our creative corps to fill its drawers with monsters of their own devising. Inspired by the Surrealist game of "exquisite corpse", we invited our team of makers to fill 36 museum cases with a collection of interchangeable heads, bodies, and tails (allowing over 1700 possible permutations). On Halloween Night, our bestiary of triptych hybrids set off up Sixth Avenue, periodically assembling into a towering display, then recombining into new creatures, hatched from the Hallowed Halls of Cryptozoology and bound for a brave new world.
WATCH VIDEO of CABINET of CURIOSITIES: