Was the Dodo a real or a mythical creature? Representing much more than just ornithological interest, even dodologists continue to debate its true appearance and character today. The obscurity surrounding this famous bird has been both an age-old and a contemporary enigma. Introduced through its native home, Mauritius, this exhibition of Dodo-related artworks, documents, books, souvenirs, products and ephemera goes on to recount and revive some diverse and contradictory narratives depicting the Dodo. Delivered back to us largely through colonialist practices, the tangible evidence we have concerning the bird and much of its iconic imagery often illustrates ideas to do with expansionism and obsolescence. Curiously, it was these same imperialist measures which gave rise to portrayals of the bird as being comical, dumb, slow and lazy.
"Have you seen this bird?" aims to bypass traditional value judgements normally associated with collections. Be it souvenir, painting or game, all objects on display bear a metaphorical relationship to one another as they all reside within an active, sociocultural context. The connections they form will be illuminated, allowing them to continue to interact through their own material language. Visitors will experience objects delivering scientific, artistic, poetic and consumerist associations.
The collection belongs to Rainer Dombrowsky, proprietor of the former ‘Dodohaus’ (International Dodo Society, Berlin). Having grown up on Mauritius, he developed a fascination with the national symbol of the island and has been collecting for about 15 years. The Dodohaus served as a storage and display solution whilst also providing an intercultural meet-up point for artists, allowing them to exhibit, perform music and give talks – more often than not, Dodo-themed! Due to commercial development in the area the organisation was forced to close and the collection which once hung in the venue is now in archive. Curator, Lisa Gordon, reinterprets some of these unique objects in a temporary exhibition at Centrum.