Comprehensive Mammal That Might Have Been

By Rebecca Horne | April 14, 2010 10:05 am

Jason Salavon is a new-media artist whose solo show at Ronald Feldman Gallery opened last week in New York. He is also a research fellow in the Computation Institute and assistant professor in Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. I asked him last week about his image, Generic Mammal Skull, featured in the current show.

RH: Where did this idea of creating a generic mammal come from?

JS: I’ve been interested in evolutionary processes for a long time and wanted to explore them in my own way. I was specifically interested in representing fictional, imagined forms, things missed or skipped by evolution, in a rich, historical way. Combining that with a renewed interest in 17th century Dutch still life made for a challenging project.

RH: Do you decide what percentages of what mammal to use, or does the software determine that? If you decided, how did you determine which mammals to use, and what percentages? For example- why wild boar instead of blue whale?

JS: I designed four very accurate, high resolution models (bear, human, baboon, wild boar), hoping to capture much of the large land mammal “design space.” Percentages in the photographs were chosen for visceral impact as well as representing opposed regions in the “design space.” There is a parent project, a video animation of sorts, that covers a larger range of possibilities.

Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Generic Mammal Skull (21% baboon, 18% bear, 17% human, 44% wild boar), 2010


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About Rebecca Horne

Rebecca Horne ( is an artist, multi-platform freelance writer, and award-winning photography director. She launched Visual Science for in March 2010. She also writes about science and photography for The WallStreet Journal. You can reach her at


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