Specere: Alexandra Murphy

20 Oct 2017 – 27 Oct 2017

Event times

Monday-Friday 10am-4pm

Cost of entry

Free entry

Avenue Gallery

Northampton, United Kingdom


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Specere is an amalgamation of photographic project work produced over the past ten years by photographic practitioner Alexandra Murphy focused on specific natural history museum collections.


"Natural phenomena are 'wonders' because they repeatedly expose, against plain logic, the necessary metaphysical continuity and correspondence between nature and the human mind"                                   


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(Vered Maimon) 


Specere is an amalgamation of project work produced over the past ten years. The works explore potential connections between metapsychology, museology and photography -­ between Todestrieb, or death-­drive (Sigmund Freud), decay and possibilities of defiance in attempts to preserve the past. ‘Specere’ is the Latin root word for common words such as: specimen; spectacle; species – all words relevant to my research, thus Specere becomes a symbolic word for the interplay between life and death, past and present within the museum space.

Dogs: An Inert State (2014) explores the possibility that the relationship between the photograph and taxidermy specimen constitutes a metaphorical double defiance of death. Upon first glance the dogs appear as if 'alive' -­‐   noble silent creatures reminiscent of those portraits found in national galleries, before the anomalies of glass reflections and scratches reveal the inertness of these specimens behind the glass -­‐   their Gebrochenheit, or broken translation (Walter Benjamin) between past and present.

Specere I: Appareil (2017) examines the theatricality and spectacle of the modern museum through Michel Foucault’s proposition of this being a heterotopic space of governance and surveillance. As a spatialised projection, the juxtaposed photographs and diegetic audio emulate the physicality of the museological space in a bid to disclose dialectical remnants of the earlier archetypal Wunderkammer within.

Specere II: Fixing the Shadows (2016) was funded by the Royal Photographic Society and explores the preservational relationship between the museum taxidermy display and the salt print, one of the earliest processes of preserving the photograph. The dramaturgical displays are explicit constructions of preservation against decay; the salt print, a fragile representation of an inevitable demise, recalling Sigmund Freud’s repetition-­compulsion and a slow return toward a metaphorical death.

Spirits (2007) was photographed at the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology and explores Sigmund Freud’s notions of unheimlichkeit (the uncanny/unhomely) – a shifting presence of the familiar versus unfamiliar and eerie imaginings of the inanimate becoming animate. While the viewer recognises the spectacle being looked at, they simultaneously experience something more akin to an uneasy fascination with the unknown.

Alexandra Murphy


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