Foraging Abroad: Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris




On the corner of a quiet street in the Marais district, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature offers an unusual look at the relationship between humans and animals. The museum's collections range from taxidermy to decorative objects to hunting weaponry. Displays are highly reminiscent of curiosity cabinets, with smaller themed rooms (falconry, dogs, etc.)  leading into larger galleries.



Of particular interest during my visit was a collection of recently acquired works by Xavier de Poret, a French wildlife artist.



Each animal represented in the drawings was shown on a console; when a particular animal is selected, its calls echo through the exhibition rooms.


The museum plays on the complex relationship between humans and animals (and indeed, our relationship with the natural world as a whole). Triumphant paintings of hunters overwhelming their quarry, the taxidermy heads of trophy animals, and hunting weaponry all lend an unsettling mood. This mood is deepened by artwork that blends the line between human and animal, such as a darkened room where owl/human hybrids stare down from above.


The art and objects housed within are not representing subsistence hunting, but hunting as an act of pleasure. Multitudes of rifles, horns, taxidermy, and other hunting paraphernalia speak to the fetishizing ways in which we calculate our progress in the endeavor of encountering wildness. There is a old fascination at work here - humans hunting to dominate nature, and possess it. This is an ancient impulse, perhaps something preserved from the earliest days of our species on the earth.  We hunt, we consume, we seek to become.