UBERZootany
loyola university 
2011

“I grew my own body’, he said. ‘Nobody else did it for me.

So if I grew it, I must have known how to grow it.

Unconsciously, at least.

I may have lost the conscious knowledge

of how to grow it sometime in the last few hundred thousand years,

but the knowledge is still there,

because—obviously—I’ve used it…”

 

From Teddy, a short story by J.D. Salinger

 

 

In German, über is used as a prefix as well as a word in its own right. Both uses indicate a state or action involving increased elevation or quantity in the physical sense, or superiority or excess in the abstract.

 

Zoology is the  branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct.

Botany is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life, including the study of algae and fungi, and the structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, development, diseases, chemical properties, and evolutionary relationships among taxonomic groups.

 

The fossil record revealed at the Burgess Shale of British Columbia changed our view of the entire history of life on Earth, and particularly, our place in it. Stephen Jay Gould’s book “Wonderful Life” concludes that we are here by chance, that “life exists neither for us nor because of us.” As Gould says: “ We are a thing, an item of history, not an embodiment of general principles.”

 

The word “uberzootany” doesn’t exist, just as the creatures that inspired these sculptures don’t. The word and the sculptures are hybrids combining the essence of all five Kingdoms of Life to create forms that are at once recognizable and unidentifiable. By re-imagining the evolutionary history of our planet, any number of new and superior species living harmoniously within the environment that spawned them (a world existing, possibly, without humans) could develop.

 

There have been five previous mass extinctions and scientists agree that we have entered the age of the sixth—this one brought on by humans.

 

“Homo sapiens is poised to become the greatest catastrophic agent since a giant asteroid collided with the Earth sixty-five million years ago, wiping out half the world’s species in a geological instant”*

 

If we extinguish ourselves and all other life as we know it, perhaps the whole process will begin again with simple organisms resembling those that reigned for nearly two-thirds of the entire history of the planet. Life may evolve without us, then, and the world will be dominated once again by creatures like those found at the Burgess Shale.

 

***

 

*The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind,

Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin; Anchor Books / Doubleday; 1995

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