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The Animal Within | APPetizer – Nancy Graves

mumok collects

A small sample from our exhibition The Animal Within – Creatures in (and outside) the mumok Collection.
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Nancy Graves
Miocene Skeleton from Agate Springs, Nebraska


Between 1965 and 1969, Nancy Graves built a total of twenty-five life-size and deceptively lifelike effigies of camels, five of which still exist today, using a variety of materials. Graves chose the camel because of its size and shape, its enigmatic appearance, and because until then it had played a negligible role in Western art. She went on to explore its physique and biological evolution, its habitat and behavior, as well as its sociocultural significance while making its form the departure point for far-reaching reflections on the “anatomy” of contemporary sculpture. After the “replicas,” which were constructed from the inside out, the “inner life” of the camel became of sculptural interest. In the course of her research, Graves discovered an account about the primordial camel that lived in North America millions of years ago. She imagined its reintroduction as a response to the growing desertification of the western United States. In the same year, she created her first sculpture based on fossil findings: the life-size camel skeleton Miocene Skeleton from Agate Springs, Nebraska, which was realized as a bronze direct cast in 1979. From 1970, Graves regularly traveled to Morocco to study camels in the flesh, incorporating her research into films. Graves’s artistic “tracking” can be described as an archaeology of the present, as it addresses the construction—and fallibility—of science, its narratives and techniques of representation. However “authentic” her work may appear, it is always fabrication.