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Taxonomies of Progressive Animalia


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an unsettling "pataphysical" exercise I did back in my MFA program at Cal Arts. long live the Duck/Rabbit!

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Taxonomies of Progressive Animalia

  1. 1. Harold R. Tutter’s Taxonomies of Progressive Animalia, Or, A Pictorial and Textual Documentation on the Failed Attempts at Hunting the Mythic Duck/Rabbit Part of the New Discoveries in Zoological Science Series, Eastwestern University, edited by Dr. Jerome Frederick Rothberg, Tutter scholar and lecturer
  2. 2. “When one looks at the duck[/]rabbit, one may see a picture of a duck, or one might see a picture of a rabbit, but never both simultaneously.” —Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations “If my left hand is touching my right hand, and if I should suddenly wish to apprehend with my right hand the work of my left hand as it touches, this reflection of the body upon itself always miscarries at the last moment: the moment I feel my left hand with my right hand, I correspondingly cease touching my right hand with my left hand [. . . .] The moment perception comes my body effaces itself before it and never does the perception grasp the body in the act of perceiving.” —Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” —Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
  3. 3. Editor’s Note About as hopelessly non-deterministic as the bulk of Harold R. Tutter’s scientific research and field-findings themselves, little is known nor even the basis of a significant worry to most concerning the firmer details of Tutter’s uncelebrated life and career. Save for the recorded testimonial fact that he frequently insisted on being referred to throughout his adult life as “Reggie,” allegedly abbreviated from the longer namesake of Reginald, the same that was responsible for the capital R period so commonly middleplace in his full signature, Tutter and the motivation that inspired his works is, as was the unconfirmed whereabouts of his untimely passing—rumors have circulated in certain circles about a single-engine plane crash deep within the wooded folds of the Chumash Mountains, firstplace sighting of _____, the most well-known, tirelessly documented, and vehemently rejected of all Tutter’s Progressive Animalia, but no official reconnaissance was ever organized, in fact (and, in the humble opinion of this editor, was due in part or entirely to the malignancy of professional jealousy, the vulgarity of Tutter’s colleague’s envy for his gifts to the scientific community so obviously the reason to forego a search party, enough purpose to call off a rescue attempt and let the brilliant zoologist survive off pieces of the Cessna pilot’s spoiling carcass, just to temporarily stave off his own immanent demise mere days before befalling the ironic fate of becoming feed for the many wild that Tutter himself was responsible for documenting)—a matter deeply shrouded in a decent helping of mystery and tightly-lipped secrecy. Of what is known, though, despite all the elusive nature enveloping Tutter’s person and unloosened conscience, was that he not only possessed a strong belief in the existence of the famed “Duck/Rabbit” (see also Fig. 20 on title page), but also claimed in the latter days just preceding his bizarre disappearance to be “hot on his—er, it’s—trail, the little sonofabitch,” as was scrolled in light pencil in one of the several recovered mishmash attempts at a data journal. Never did Tutter’s confidence wane in the possibility of the duck/rabbit animale, nor in its sorely- debated value or merit amongst so-called scholarly institutions. If anything at all of any truth or substance can be said of Tutter and his scientific pursuits, it can be this: he was a man overcome by his severe need to be misunderstood. And suffice to say, Tutter took to his grave all that he had and had-yet for us to not know or know falsely—the bewilderment left in his stead not half the enigmatic pleasure he himself could have devised. Duck/Rabbit or no, make no mistake: the intent of this occasion is to celebrate a fearless scientist, a man unafraid to massage the boundaries of empirical survey, a quintessential Man of Science who dared to tag and catalogue a whole new species of bird and beast most were simply content to imagine. Truly an unimaginary science, Harry R. Tutter—“Reggie”—for your findings are indisputably of the episteme we see and feel now. And for that, along with your courageous spirit and spotty legacy, we salute you. —Dr. Jerome Frederick Rothberg, lecturing professor and committee chair of the Center for Bestiary Studies of Questionable Origination, Eastwestern University, February 8th, 1998
  4. 4. The Tutter Methodology Dr. (an honorary degree awarded posthumously to Tutter by suggestion of myself, Dr. Rothberg, from Eastwestern U, Spring 1989) Harold R. Tutter’s scientific methodology for his field team’s Taxonomies of Progressive Animalia, as excerpted from Tutter’s data journal 3.4, entitled Duck/Rabbits Make Good Eatin:68 Delicious Recipes, perhaps just one of many overstated examples of Tutter’s outgoing humor and rollicking sensibility, all the more unique considering the seriousness with which his research was so diligently infused: . . . That was how we conducted ourselves. We’d find a thing, circle it. If it had one, we’d lift up its tail to examine its backside, sniff a bit, and calculate its limits. How much weight could the thing take? How much pressure could it withstand? If saddled, would it sag or prove sturdy enough to ride? At point of impact, would it remain unchanged or could we leave a lasting impression of our meeting, of ourselves, one that others could tell down the line that we had at the very least been there, done our business, and won? We were determined to find out. If there was a too-far in most things, we zeroed in on it and took it there every time, dancing visions of stubborn little duck/rabbits egging us onward, be they wild and desperate, scattering amongst denser foliage to avoid the sting of our tranquilizers or already successfully tagged and stuffed, rigid and on display for the good of public viewership, fully intending to light the dark corners of this exotic earth and flush out its mistakenly beasts into the curious watchfulness of the unsuspecting and knowledge-hungry world, where they can be noted, studied, and with any luck at all—understood, so as to better understand ourselves, I suppose . . .
  5. 5. The Author Harold “Reggie” Tutter featured below, seated facing the camera in one of the last known self-portraits remaining before his tragic disappearance. Tutter is pictured here displaying one of the texts that he wrote, along with flamboyant collaborator and longtime lover Christopher J. Wooten (featured next page), entitled Giant Molecules, as well as a freshly pealed South American Chiquita banana, alleged favorite food and primary bait used to hunt the still-to-be classified Duck/Rabbit, both lifelong muse and nagging thorn to Tutter’s career and scientific credibility.
  6. 6. The Companion Christopher J. Wooten, academic dilettante, still-life painter, and live-in bunkmate of Harry Tutter during the years 1979-1994, executer of the Harold Reginald Tutter estate, and executive curator of the Museum of Tutter Tutelage, New Brunswick, PA.
  7. 7. Computer Generated Artist Renderings of the Projected Rabbit-Duck, and Similarly, the Duck-Rabbit These renderings (see Figs. 1a, b, and c, respectively), performed by the mildly talented C. J. Wooten after the tragic Tutter disappearance of ’94, are, in point of fact, much closer to the animals that Tutter catalogued and inventoried himself, and much less what he had sought out throughout his zoological career: the ambiguous Duck / Rabbit. The myopic, yet deeply profound difference between the Duck – Rabbit and the Duck / Rabbit is the denotation between the two names that either connotatively become one or were always already one long before the instant of punctuation, whether they were one or two to begin with when recognized by identifiable articles of grammatical interruption. The hyphen suggests a compound relationship, literally meaning “to connect (as two words)” two words that wouldn’t be otherwise—and for good reason with the Rabbit-Duck and Duck-Rabbit, as both are conjunctive syntheses of two dissimilar animals, one with an obvious privileging within the binary opposition that constitutes its appearance. It is what occurs in between the two terms being connected that matters most, in this case either Rabbit and or Duck or its reverse; the essential point here remaining that the Duck – Rabbit is more duck than rabbit, the Rabbit – Duck more rabbit than duck—but they come closest to that which Tutter crusaded for all his years: the mythic Duck / Rabbit. Whereas a hyphenated relationship signifies a sort of unnatural conjoining of two disparate objects, the forward slash (also known as the “solidus,” “virgule,” “diagonal,” “stroke,” or “separatrix,”) symbolizes more a spirit of “separating [so as to demarcate] related items of information,” a means by which one finds it necessary to indicate that one term ends and the other begins, despite however one may want to believe the two terms bleed on infinitely in a fixed state of togetherness, two terms both themselves and itself in the same consensual moment. Whereas the Duck – Rabbit is exacted of two dissimilars forced together to mimic a similar, the Duck / Rabbit is in fact composed of such similar(s) that there must be a cleft between their representation so as to comprehend a discontinuity at all. The Duck/Rabbit posits a synchronous state of becoming, where one is indeed the other in a perpetual condition of static simultaneity, a sublime non-privileging lodged between here and there, the fabled correspondence between sign and signification, manning the lapse centered between epistemology and the Great Unknown. That was the impossible romance that Tutter unremittingly campaigned for in countless expeditions and laboratory investigations, coming up short in nothing less than a valiant quest for the unavailable. And although his findings were more Duck-Rabbit than Duck/Rabbit, Tutter presented us with an unprecedented scientific bestiary that would have never surfaced had it not been from the miserable misgivings and bumbling errancies of his Duck/Rabbit pursuits. The following offerings are cribbed from the data journals of a man who truly benefited the world from his inabilities to locate what he couldn’t, never would. The following pages are in praise of Noble Failure.
  8. 8. Fig. 1a: digital graphics courtesy of the “Hyphenated Animalia” exhibition in Gallery Room #B, the Museum of Tutter Tutelage (MOTT) Fig. 1b: Rabbit-Duck, MOTT permanent collections Fig. 1c: Duck-Rabbit, MOTT permanent collections
  9. 9. Pufferfish Earitus Enlargum (Sphoeroides Earitus) PHYLUM: Cordata SUBPHYLUM: Vertebrata CLASS: Teleostei ORDER: Tetraodontiformes FAMILY: Tetraodontidae Date of Capture: 13 February, 1967 Characteristics: “Although research is quick to point out that sound travels 3X slower when submerged under water, this off-shoot of the common Puffer seems to have generated a certain anxiety over this prospect and adapted accordingly. Extensive testing indicated that this animale was receptive to water noise of up to 400 cubic miles away from its own location, able to detect the sound of an otter working on a mussel shell on the other side of the Pacific, the treble-soaked whinings of a school of blue whales migrating in thick, icy waters, even the groggy slushing of a kelp bed swaying back and forth to the current a gulf and a half over. Internal cochlear structures revealed an acute sense of filtration, apparently an elaborate labyrinth through which white noise and other audio irritants must travel through to reach the sensitive hair follicles of the inner drum, a process that considerably decreases oceanic background noise and allows for a more efficient system of hearing selectivity. Studies are now being conducted to learn if this Earitus Enlargum system might be replicated in humans on dry land, perhaps speeding up hearing 3X faster than normal, resulting in a 5-6 second delay between when a thing is first heard, and when it finally occurs. The first two subjects who underwent the study were said to anticipate speech before it was spoken, and rather than regarding each other’s mouths when speaking, instead found it intuitively more practical to make eye contact with the throat, instigating a more direct attention with the site from which speech is born. Scientists understand this method of hearing to be one step closer to outmoding vocalized sound altogether, ushering in a new, more hushed communication system. Talk-Loudly organizations have lobbied ferociously against plans of implementation and tend to be quite nervous about the possibility, while the Silentist and Talk-Not groups seem to consider it the joyous occasion of silence’s earthly second-coming.” Sighting(s): See also Fig. 2
  10. 10. Habits: “Group behavior is handicapped due to a hyper self-consciousness over the size of its own ears; has a general distrust and wariness of other species of fish; social situations revealed that if this animale wasn’t swimming with its own kind, it was most frequently a loaner, and blood pressure levels tended to indicate that this was because it was afraid of overhearing other fish gossiping about its physical abnormalities. Poor, poor big-eared loser fish, how we console thee and thy wrongful uncomliness.” Likeness to Duck-Rabbit: “Not much.”
  11. 11. Fig. 21 1 Professed firstplace habitat sighting of the Pufferfish Earius Enlargum, as noted by “Reggie” Tutter on the date of its capture, Feb. 13, 1967; Data journal entry: “Urban habitat provided an attuned sense of city noise and sound pollutants, as the animale’s swimming patterns were apparently synchronized to the daily flow of rush-hour traffic and pedestrian foot cycles.”
  12. 12. Chicken Handias-Unipedius (Gallus Digitarus) PHYLUM: Cordata SUBPHYLUM: Vertebrata CLASS: Aves ORDER: Galliformes FAMILY: Phasianidae Date of Capture: 11 May, 1974 Characteristics: “Hard to tell, since the only one that we’ve ever recovered was roadkill. Aside from a blemished undercarriage, dismantled skeletal structure, and gaping expression of last- minute terror permanented on its face from the onset of rigor mortis, the remaining features seem to hint at a botched impregnation attempt between a human and your common barnyard foul. Safe to say, Farmer’s Wife’s sex drive just ain’t what it used to be.” Sighting(s): See also Figs. 3a/b Habits: “Any interpretation would be purely speculative due to the posthumous circumstances in which we contracted the specimen, but I can assure you that every single habit this mutant freak- show was capable of was disturbingly strange at the very goddamn least. Seriously unnatural. Gives me sweats just imagining.” Likeness to Duck/Rabbit: “Not much.”
  13. 13. Fig. 3a 2 Fig. 3b3 2 View straddling the median between both south- and north-bound lanes of the I-5, initial capture site of the Chicken Handias-Unipedius; So states Tutter’s data journal entry chronicling the capture on 11 May, 1974:“Evidently, by the time our team had tracked them down from their finger-prints in the soft soil, we had inadvertently stumbled upon a mating Hand-Race ritual in progress in the middle of a vehicular interstate, a mutated and disconcerting game of “Chicken” in full swing, where a whole gaggle of them were clucking their way through the lanes of oncoming traffic, and this beautiful alpha-male, the one we have here, was steamrolled by a family mid-size, the others scattering when they saw us scrambling with our nets, raring to cast. Quick little fuckers, they are.” 3 Exact north-bound shoulder location where the uniped limped to on his knuckles after being downed by the runaway import. Tutter and his team subsequently bagged and tagged the animale, then made their way through the tall grasses at the highway’s edge.
  14. 14. Muskrat Snoutus-Elephantitus (Ondatra Elephantus) PHYLUM: Cordata SUBPHYLUM: Vertebrata CLASS: Mammalia ORDER: Rodentia FAMILY: Muridae Date of Capture: Good Friday, 1978 Characteristics: “Curious admixture of common Mini-Elephantis (see data journal 1.8) with an household muskrat. Possibly an evolved adaptation to its environment, as it was trapped in the Citibank’s Citigroup Center corporate gardens in the financial district, and one might be quick to point out that this particular animale may have taken on physical attributes to blend in to its surroundings, so as to coexist without fear of extermination. For example, the elephantine-snout may have been a result from being embedded in the thick, rich foliage, overhearing countless Republicanisms and fiscal strategies while young execs. nervously enjoyed their smoke breaks in the gardens. The fact that this animale does indeed primarily belong to the rodent family—the rat subdivision to be precise—may just be a simple coincidence. Sighting(s): See also Figs. 5a/b Habits: “Has the tendency of trading nuts and additional assorted eatery to other animales for below market value, while demanding returns in greater stock (“variable interest,” as they say) during the merciless winter months when food and resources are at their most scarce. Also shrewd and territorial. Full-grown adult males are known to make use of their urine and other fecalities to designate their domains, to ward off any potential competitors and/or intruders, and perhaps to further insist, according to my Guatemalan tracker Lupe Gutierrez, that ‘their shit don’t stink,’ endquote.” Likeness to Duck/Rabbit: “Not much.”
  15. 15. Fig. 5a7 Fig. 5b8 7 Citibank’s “Citigroup Center”; sightings include: “ making a nest with certain discarded bank statements and promotional mailers near the fountain area of the courtyard; also sighted near the dumpsters sifting for paper shreds, its long, wrinkled gray snout like ‘a limp, uncut penis,’ according to one traumatized female Citibank employee.” 8 The corporate gardens in which the Muskrat Snoutus-Elephantitus nested and reared its young.
  16. 16. Snaggle-Toothed King-Snakeus (Lampropeltis Orthodontis) PHYLUM: Cordata SUBPHYLUM: Vertebrata CLASS: Reptilia ORDER: Squamata FAMILY: Colubridae Date of Capture: 19 December, 1983 Characteristics: “Forget that this specimen is one of the most feared and lethally venomous slitherers to scoot across the tundra floor. Pay no heed to the terrifying beauty of the deliberate IZOD stripes that pattern its entire length as though rendered by a master artisan. And deny as you must the intelligence and prowess it demonstrates when stalking a wee field mouse 300 yards deep by the sense of smell alone. For this ordinary King Snake and all its usually poetic attributes are completely awash when one takes into account that rotten, gnarled, unforgivably malformed row of upper teeth that jut out from the cervical portion of its body. I mean, I thought I had seen it all, that I was stalwart enough to handle the nastiest and most gruesome beasts that Mother Nature had at her disposal, that I could unconditionally and objectively regard them as one and the same, free from bias, but I was mistaken. There isn’t a single time that I see those crooked incisors dorking out from the side of that snake, all buck-toothed and filmy and riddled with decay, and not vomit in my mouth immediately afterward. On an emotional level, I guess it’s that bad teeth offend me deeply. They kinda’ hurt my feelings, even, if I overthink them. Whether from that childhood experience that involved Nanna’s dentures, a flight of stairs, and that scar on my left shoulder blade or not, I dunno, but I’ve about neared my limit with this one.” Sighting(s): See also Figs. 6a/b Habits: Likeness to Duck/Rabbit: “Not much.”
  17. 17. Fig. 6a9 Fig. 6b10 9 10 The actual vagina-like, nature-made fissure that Tutter first came by the lengthwise shape of the Snaggle-Toothed King-Snakeus on the mild afternoon of the 19th, December, 1983.
  18. 18. Oversized Cockroachus Penis Erectus (Periplaneta Genitalia-Mammalia) PHYLUM: Anthropoda SUBPHYLUM: Hexapoda CLASS: Insecta ORDER: Blattodea FAMILY: Dictyoptera Date of Capture: 13 October, 1986 Characteristics: “Your typical, everyday, kitchen-cupboard dwelling cockroach, only much, much bigger and fully equipped with a stubby, adult-sized wanker. Essentially, every female’s worst nightmare. City officials have even assembled special pest control task forces dedicated to castrating these little buggers. The streets just aren’t safe anymore.” Sighting(s): See also Figs. 8a/b Habits: “Quite aggressive behavior, especially during mating season. The specimen, when given to this period, has been considered a threat to some, as its reportedly been witnessed lunging from its usual supine position in the field and latching on to the foreleg of the nearest passerby, whether human or not, allegedly thrusting its pelvis back and forth, its genitalia becoming engorged and constricted, attempting to hump the prey and fertilize it with its own sticky seed, a repulsive watery substance left as a sort of “snail-trail” on the victim’s clothing, of which no dry cleaning has yet been known to combat. Immediately afterward, the specimen is prone to require slumber of some indeterminable length, often still clutching the mating site of its prey, its respiratory behavior audibilized as snoring.” Likeness to Duck/Rabbit: “Not much.”
  19. 19. Fig. 8a12 Fig. 8b13 12 An abandoned plot of land between two corporate high-rises in downtown Los Angeles, location capture of the Oversized Cockroachus Penis Erectus; From Tutter’s data journal upon first sighting: 13 This concrete overhang housed the vile insect, where it was found wallowing in a pile of fast-food refuse like an overexcited pig in a puddle of waste-slop.
  20. 20. Jackalope Celebritium PHYLUM: ? SUBPHYLUM: ? CLASS: ? ORDER: ? FAMILY: ? Date of Capture: Late 80’s/early 90’s Characteristics: “Who cares, since it’s a goddamn fake and all.” Sighting(s): “Selected hardware stores and novelty gift shops; also featured in a particular comedy skit on a prime-time TV show entitled America’s Funniest People, with hosts Tawny Kitaen and Dave Coulier. Simultaneously marks the peak and rapid descent of the Jackalope’s career popularity. Last spotted late one Sunday afternoon on the $3.50 and under table at the Glendale Rotary’s annual basement blowout sale, sandwiched between various Star Trek memorabilia and a first generation George Foreman griller.” Habits: “Again, not worth mentioning. Mocking me, for starters.” Likeness to Duck/Rabbit: “Closest yet, if, in fact, it weren’t someone’s cute little attempt at caricaturing a very serious field of study, one to which I’ve devoted my whole life and sacrificed many an opportunity for fame, monetary riches, and monogamous sexual relations, i.e. absolute happiness, or, if you will, the qualities I will regret not having pursued till the day I die, etc. The wisecracking bastards.”
  21. 21. Duck/Rabbit14 PHYLUM: Insufficient category SUBPHYLUM: Insufficient category CLASS: Insufficient category ORDER: Insufficient category FAMILY: Insufficient category Date of Capture: To be concluded. Perhaps, as Tutter often suggested, “a late evening seated in the near future.” Characteristics: Its very fluid and simultaneous nature, as such, defies any static classification. Any attempts to do so must be weightless and as porous as the Duck/Rabbit’s identification itself. To be sure: the assessment must be without bias as to which animale is preferred to even stand a chance. Sighting(s): Tutter claimed that he saw the Duck/Rabbit everywhere: a flash of fur on the outskirts of his periphery; a far-off object on the horizon, its bill glinting in the hard sunlight; a smudge or smear streaking by when the day’s shadows were at their longest. At the very least, it was that dancing shape tucked inside the eyelids, animated and inspired into movement when one stared long enough with one’s eyes closed. Habits: Ambiguous, highly disputed. Given to conjecture and circular speculation. Likeness to Duck/Rabbit: N/A 14 One of thousands of crude hand-drawn sketches from Tutter’s volumes of doodle pads.
  22. 22. The Animales: Duck/Rabbit and Beyond For lack of better project funding (Taxonomies of Progressive Animalia was denied every single fellowship and research grant that it was submitted for, mostly by committees largely populated with indignant “player-haters,” as Tutter was quoted after being “sweated” by each respective institution), here Tutter has arranged his Progressive Animalia on the carpet of his living room floor in his modest bachelor’s studio. The animales, since positioned in proximity to each other, give a detailed understanding of their scale and proportionality. Although the tendency when viewing this evidence is to comment on their ridiculousness, to shake one’s head and cynically suggest that these animales aren’t in fact “real,” but some wacked-out crackhead’s psychedelic vision of costuming various stuffed animals with prosthetic parts and trying to pass them off as valid scientific discovery—but to lean on such pithy, unfair criticisms is to miss the very importance and meaning of Tutter’s scientific project. To so baldly reject such rigorously documented, well-preserved, and exhaustively researched data and still have the audacity to demand the fakeness and artificiality of the project be outed and exploited to such a degree that it taints any value or merit contained therein—well, then, to those empirical naysayers and ontological pessimists who so desperately and feverishly cling to the bankrupt ideology of Common Sense, and to those who blindly invest in such fallible notions as Absolute Truth and the accuracy of classifiable phenomenon and experience, to those antiseptic, humorless few I offer but a few words: Suck eggs, my friends. You can just go suck some eggs. Because we have no more room for folks like you in the realm of endless possibilities. We’re much more interested in what could be than what already is. Science has plagued us too long with its so- called imperialist factualities, utilitarian applications, and authoritative hypotheses. Tutter refused Science its stranglehold on the wind supply of Imagination. And so we, too, in the spirit of Tutter and all his believers, proudly declare in the name of creation: Dream it and it will be. Concoct false instrument-kits of scientific inquiry—a box of toothpicks, some Scotch tape, an oven mitt shaped like a lobster claw—and charge forward into the thickets of the unimagined landscape, careful to note the imprecise and sloppy discoveries ripe for a wider audience. Heed the rally cry, Tutterites, the hounds are a bawlin’ and the bugles are a callin’, for Duck/Rabbit Season is officially open, and the hunt marches dutifully onward . . . —Dr. Jerome Frederick Rothberg, H. “Reggie” Tutter devotee, Duck/Rabbit believer