Bring Back the Extinct Northern White Rhino is Victoria Fuller’s tribute to a species of animal that is functionally extinct. The last male northern white rhinoceros, named Sudan, died in 2018. There are two females left. This installation features a realistic life-size replica of a rhino, 13’ x 5’.5” x 4,’ made of vinyl material with a hide of printed faux wrinkles and texture. It inflates and deflates repetitively on a 3 minutes cycle. When deflated, we are reminded that it is extinct; when inflated, it references the magnificence of the species when it was alive, as well as the attempt to bring it back through “artificial reproductive techniques” with frozen sperm and eggs implanted in a closely related subspecies. The inflation and deflation are also like inhaling and exhaling lungs, symbolizing the breath of life. Fuller created the project with a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (DCASE) to bring awareness to the extinction of animals in our lifetime.
The idea for making this artwork started with Fuller’s observation of the sad piles of deflated holiday lawn decorations that slump on people’s lawns when the air is taken out of them. Like those lawn decorations, rhinos and many other wild animals are treated like a commodity, with no value as living things beyond the price they can bring at market. Rhinoceroses are killed illegally by poachers for their horns, which are used in the Chinese medicine trade. Other species like the pangolin and bats are used for meat and also used in Chinese medicine. The loss of this animal is a cautionary tale. Human hunting of wild animals and encroachment on their habitats is causing their extinction, and we must do all we can to stop these magnificent creatures from going extinct.
Register below to attend the free reception for Bring Back the Northern White Rhino on July 1 at 6 pm.