The tragedy of lost species – by Brian McKenzie

London-based artist and printmaker Brian McKenzie shares his latest project, specially completed in memory of the thylacine and for Lost Species Day:

Recently I have had the opportunity to make some new specimen artworks as part of a year long initiative commemorating the death of the last thylacine. The thylacine was a marsupial. Marsupials are wonderfully weird mammals whose young are born in a highly unformed embryo-like state.

Thylacine specimen joey, cloning trial 1 – 2 days old

The young emerge from their mothers, then grapple and clamber with overly large forelimbs to the distinctive marsupial pouch where they find sustenance and develop.


Thylacine trial 2 – 6 days old

The Thylacine became extinct 80 years ago when on September 7th 1936, ‘Benjamin’ died of neglect, locked out of his sheltered sleeping quarters in Hobart Zoo, Australia. I have speculated about what might happen should science try to reintroduce the long-lost beast using cloning technology.

thylacine-puggle-3Thylacine trial 7 – 14 days old

I have made several thylacine clone attempts. And because these malformed, ill-bred specimens are in jars, dead and preserved, we must presume that the scientists found the tasks beyond their means. The task has proved to be too complex and difficult and is way beyond them. They have failed.
 Two views of trial number 11, having survived for 21 days
The way I create these beastly specimens is by using rubber and carefully crafted, complicated inside-out moulds. One inherent factor with this process is that the final outcome (when the skin is reversed and rolled over itself) manifests unpredictable peculiarities and flaws giving the creature surprising, odd misshapen characteristics and features.
 Longest surviving creature; perished at 1 month and 1 day
I liken these errors and foibles to the struggles encountered when modern science, expecting to fully comprehend nature, finds that things do not always go according to plan. The message I’m wanting to project is that it is far better to preserve wondrousness than to expect to be able to pick up the pieces later.

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