Monday, 29 December 2014

Lyuba @ the end

Ann-Marie Tully, Lyuba at the end I, 2014. Ink and bleach on paper. 230 x 230 mm.

Ann-Marie Tully, Lyuba at the end II, 2014. Ink and bleach on paper. 230 x 230 mm.

Ann-Marie Tully, Lyuba at the end III, 2014. Ink, bleach, cotton on paper. 250 x 350 mm.

Ann-Marie Tully, Lyuba at the end IV, 2014. Ink, bleach, cotton on paper. 250 x 350 mm.

In 2007, the remarkably preserved carcass of a female baby mammoth named "Lyuba" was discovered near the Yuribei River in Siberia, where it had been buried for 41,800 years.[1] By cutting a section through a molar and analysing its growth lines, they found that this creature had died at the age of one month.[2] The mummified calf weighs 50 kg, is 85 cm high and 130 cm long.[3] At the time of discovery, her eyes and trunk were intact and some fur remained on her body, while her organs and skin were very well preserved.[4] An important aspect of Lyuba’s story is how she was discovered and named by a Nenets reindeer herder called Yuri Khudi. Nenets view mammoths as dangerous omens. Despite these pervasive mythical beliefs, Khudi vowed to placate the infernal powers with the sacrifice of a baby reindeer and a libation of vodka. Following some difficulties, Lyuba’s body was packed and shipped by helicopter to the safety of the Shemanovsky Museum in Salekhard, the regional capital. Grateful officials named her “Lyuba”, after Khudi’s wife, a name that means ‘love’.[5]

The body of work, Lyuba at the end employs Lyuba’s story as a analogous springboard for the consideration of related concepts: the ancient and contemporary relations of humans and animals – including predacious patterns of behavior; rhetorical and totemic “magical” practices and beliefs extending into the deep time of human existence; and the familiar, but ancient reach of loving/respectful inter-species relations, that in the case of domesticated animals is often juxtaposed by predacious necessity. While not domestic animals, there can be no doubt that mammoths were revered creatures in palaeolithic human reckoning: significant as both prey and totemic figures.

The figure of Lyuba also reminds us of each beings shared mortality - a levelling notion. Lyuba's frozen end during the last ice age can also serve as a metaphor for humanity’s current disaffected and problematic relationship with the earth, which is now again in a state of climate flux affected (at least in part) by rampant human industry. The significance of tusked and horned animals (elephants, antelope, rhinoceros etc) in ancient and contemporary consumption (poaching for 'medicinal' use) is also reflected upon.

[1] Kosintsev, P. A.; Lapteva, E. G.; Trofimova, S. S.; Zanina, O. G.; Tikhonov, A. N.; Van Der Plicht, J. 2012. "Environmental reconstruction inferred from the intestinal contents of the Yamal baby mammoth Lyuba (Mammuthus primigenius Blumenbach, 1799)". Quaternary International 255: 231.
[2] Rountrey, A. N.; Fisher, D. C.; Tikhonov, A. N.; Kosintsev, P. A.; Lazarev, P. A.; Boeskorov, G.; Buigues, B. 2012. "Early tooth development, gestation and season of birth in mammoths". Quaternary International 255: 196.
[3] Rincon, P. 2007. "Baby mammoth discovery unveiled". BBC News. [O]. http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSL1178205120070711
Retrieved 13 July 2012.
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