L’Ichthyosaure [The Ictosaur], 2003
400 x 900 x 500 cm
Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles
Influenced by the conceptual practices of the 1980s and 90s, Mark Dion began constructing dioramas—a 19th century apparatus for representing real-life scenes—to reflect on the impact of human and animal lives on the landscape. For the artist, objects have the power to communicate ideas but, by engaging and appropriating the types of displays inherent in museum collections, Dion reveals the way institutions mediate these ideas. This work engages with the history of imperial explorers and their travelogues equally scientific and subjective. The Ichthyosaur holds a special place in this history as the discovery of its fossils provoked particularly strong debate among scientists in the 19th century over its place in genealogy, exhibiting mammal, fish and reptile characteristics.