Happy Darwin Day! I feel since it’s the Year of the Monkey, this year’s Darwin Day is especially important, don’t you? Out of all of the Chinese zodiacs, they are out closest relatives, after all.
(Speaking of, how cool is this Year of the Monkey artwork?)
I’m a big fan of monkeys. I prefer apes, but there’s no Year of the Ape, unfortunately. Maybe there should be.
Anyways, I’m a big fan of Memento Mori art. (If you are, too, check out Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us by Paul Koudounaris. Awesome book. Amazing photos. Lots of bones and catacombs and stuff.) Memento Mori is Latin for “Remember to die,” usually rendered as “Remember that you will die.” You tend to get a lot of skeleton-based artwork, which I adore. It’s intended to remind people of the transience of our mortal lives by presenting them with images of death. One example from Koudounaris’s book I especially loved where skulls engraved with questions for the living, like, “Was I rich?” or “Was I loved?” to make explicit how these things no longer matter after death.
In that vein, I was thinking it might be interesting to have more Memento Evolvere art: Remember to Evolve. It would be artwork designed to show our connection to our animal relatives, to remind the viewer of their origins. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot I’ve been able to find so far.
My favorite is, of course, Affe mit Schaedel. It depicts a chimpanzee studying a human skull while sitting on a pile of books, including one titled “Darwin.” I have a copy at my work desk.
A bit more risque are these photos from a hot spring in Japan, of a young woman bathing with monkeys. I admit, I like that they blurred out the monkey’s eyes, too, in the second image. (Don’t worry, nothing explicit is shown.)
Reddit has a subreddit, Like Us, that is just full of examples of animals behaving like humans. I especially like this gif of an orangutan utterly entranced by a human baby. There’s a lot of cute and interesting stuff, though.
Another good photo is this one from Evolution, by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu. It shows the similarities between the human and horse skeletons, and is a reference to quote by Leclerc. George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, compared the skeletons of humans and horses in 1753, writing:
Take the skeleton of a man. Tilt the pelvis, shorten the femur, legs, and arms, elongate the feet and hands, fuse the phalanges, elongate the jaws while shortening the frontal bone, and finally elongate the spine, and the skeleton will cease to represent the remains of a man and will be the skeleton of a horse.
A few years ago, I attended a Darwin Exhibition that had a cute little statue of Darwin with a removable head. When you removed the head and peered inside, a monkey’s face looked up at you from within. It was really clever and adorable, but I can’t find any pictures of it at all. If anyone knows what I’m talking about, let me know.
I also really love these images! They’re of a diorama made by Patrick Culhane. He sent the diorama to Henry Ford, who later hired him, so he must have liked it. Culhane intended it as a commentary on how vice had led him and others to crime and prison, but I think it’s just cute. Besides, roulette doesn’t seem like that big a vice, nor does the piano. These look like monkeys who know how to have fun, and I like this sort of “apes standing in for humans” kind of art. I suppose you could also take it as saying that man really hasn’t evolved much from our simian ancestors.
Well, that’s what I have so far. Any thoughts or anything to add?