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‘Ann Hamilton: the common SENSE’ at Henry Art Gallery in Seattle (photo by Chona Kasinger, all images courtesy Henry Art Gallery)

Tails, feathers, claws, paws, and slender toes peak out from blurred scans of natural history specimens included in Ann Hamilton’s new exhibition at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. For Ann Hamilton: the common SENSE, which opened earlier this month, the artist delved into the collections of the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture for an installation of newspaper prints fragmenting the preserved animals.

Ann Hamilton, Digital scan of specimens from University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture Herpetology Collection (2014) (Courtesy of the artist)

The images are just a component of the common SENSE, which will evolve over its six months, filling the entire museum with new work. Clothing from the Burke that incorporates fur or other visible animal parts is also included, along with performative elements and objects from the Henry and University of Washington Libraries.

Back in 1992, Hamilton released a crowd of canaries in the Henry, and more recently her The Event of a Thread at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, that opened in late 2012, had a flock of pigeons flying home to a coop each night installed high above the installation of swings swaying below white fabric. Yet here the birds and other creatures are all deceased, processed with distortions from her rudimentary scanner. Collaborating with the Burke, she handpicked a couple hundred specimens to scan, then had them printed on newsprint that’s on the gallery walls. Visitors can freely tear off the animals as they visit.

Below you can see a few of these scans, which echo some of Hamilton’s previous animal prints like her soot-stained monoprints of canaries in “american singers” (2009). Natural history museums have this embedded consideration of the relationship between humans and other animals, with the way and reasons that they are preserved, from taxidermy mounted in a replication of our vision of wildness, to these more delicate specimens kept as an archive of biodiversity. There’s something both vulnerable and beautiful about Hamilton’s scans, and an echo of this complicated connection.

Ann Hamilton, Digital scan of a peregrine falcon from University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture Ornithology Collection (2014) (courtesy the artist)

Ann Hamilton, Digital scan of a macaque from University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture Ornithology Collection (2014) (courtesy the artist)

Ann Hamilton, Digital scan of a nine-banded armadillo from University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture Ornithology Collection (2014) (courtesy the artist)

Ann Hamilton Opening Day Celebration. Photo by Jonathan Vanderweit

Ann Hamilton: the common SENSE continues at Henry Art Gallery (4100 15th Avenue NE, Seattle) through April 26. 

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...