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26 JULY - 12 AUGUST 2017

There is a drawing which resembles an elephant in the First Bible of Charles the Bald (c.846), except that it feels wrong: the ears are far too small; the mouth appears somewhat beak-like; the tail is too long; it has a horses’ legs; the head is indistinct from the body; and the trunk seems like an afterthought, a semi-attached saxophone. It is an elephant made very strange, drawn by someone who had not seen an elephant before. Probably they were imagining the animal via second-hand description, putting down on paper a possible arrangement of elephantine features. (1)

On the website, under the category “Fruits” and in the subcategory “Garnishes”, there is another version of elephant – this one made from plastic. It is a replica gone wrong, moulded plastic made to look like a lemon that has been carved to look like an elephant. The CITRUS ELEPHANT (in all caps, as it is named on the website) is a good replica in its broad strokes (after-all, it must be hard to carve a convincing elephant out of a lemon), but the individual details make it absurd: the elephant’s trunk points out from its face like a shrivelled finger, it has an oddly shaped head, very short legs, and a stubby pig’s tail. The CITRUS ELEPHANT fails at being convincing as an elephant or a lemon, yet it is somewhat endearing.

There is a quality in the two elephants of familiarity and strangeness. The grammar of an elephant (its proportions and limbs), are mixed, knotting together identifiable and unidentifiable signs. They are too close to and too distant from what we expect to see in an elephant to be convincing. Bad Actors looks to this idea of familiar-strangeness as a possible state for dreaming. Historical construction techniques, design archetypes, and techniques employed in the making of science fiction props are humorously referenced and reimagined in materials such as packing tape, insulation foam, upholstery tacks and scrap wood."

1 “First Bible of Charles the Bald | List of Figures,” accessed May 17, 2017, of-charles- the-bald

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