THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT (2017)
Audio book 6’ 31”, mounted jackal, mounted fox (both courtesy of the National Institute for the Blind), mounted pheasant (courtesy of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts), two mounted crows.
The piece is based on two stories: a recollection of a mounted elephant once donated to the Institute for the Blind – by Lajos Soós, head of the Hungarian National Museum’s zoological collection – and the Eastern fable of “The Blind Men and the Elephant”. Here, the parable on the ways and limits of acquiring knowledge shifts, as the blind are not content with learning what an elephant is via a discarded mounted specimen. Whereas the tale uses blindness as a universal metaphor, now the focus is on the relationship between power and access to knowledge. While those who are blind and those who can see ultimately share the same social reality – constructed by external mechanisms –, the passive protagonist, the zoo elephant, is objectified as a mere exemplar of the species, eventually taxidermied. Commiserating, the blind learn about the elephants’ funeral ritual and pay their last respects accordingly. The body gets out of touch while the question of authentic knowledge remains.