Habitat Diorama (Spectacled Cormorant)

Hannah Rodabaugh

Hannah Rodabaugh

Habitat Diorama (Spectacled Cormorant) was selected for MSUL’s themed call for work about Water, in coordination with the MSU Broad Art Museum’s fall 2023 exhibition, Flint is Family in Three Acts, featuring the photography of Latoya Ruby Frazier.

Now we have whole prisons dedicated to the lost. We 
call these Habitat Dioramas, each painted scene cast 
in bas-relief against an artificial stillness. Stuffed birds 
in comical poses—a spectacled cormorant's neck bent 
like a scythe—an erudite gesture of Dinosauria before 
badly-painted water and lush forest. The dead awash in 
exposure as photogenic negative—unwilling as in flux—
the reverse of film's intention. These look-alikes cannot 
stand in for the living no matter how much we try to 
make them—not even as apologia or placard for our 
guilt. The scenery cannot take us from this statuary to 
something moving, cannot breathe the salt air over us, 
the sea wailing beyond us; it will not get us to remember 
something lost. When an animal is lost, it's lost forever. 
The museum becomes an unlikely cemetery for all our 
buried hopes, all the worlds we couldn't save. The words 
we could have said to them unspoken in our throat.

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