Is it possible to distinguish between what is human and what is nature? I addressed this question in my collection response at Perth museum and Art Gallery in 2015, with my installation inspired by a Pleistocene beaver skull in the natural history display at the museum. The history of the beaver in Scotland, is that of a species, once abundant, hunted to extinction hundreds of years ago, and recently reintroduced from foreign stock in two contrasting ways:
The Scottish Beaver Trial is an official trial licensed by the Scottish government, and is run in partnership between the Scottish Wildlife trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, in Knapdale, Argyll.
The Tayside beavers originated as escapes or illegal releases from private collections. They have been living freely along in Tayside since 2006 at least. Beavers are not considered to be a native species in Scotland, and are not protected by law. It is considered to be illegal to possess a dead or live beaver without a license from Scottish Natural Heritage.
The options being considered by the Scottish government are as follows:
- removal of all beavers
- allowing beavers to remain without further interference
- allowing further reintroductions under licensing, to increase the genetic diversity of the population
(see FAQS at taysidebeaverstudygroup.org.uk for more information)
I continued my exploration of landscape – and especially re-wilding, by appropriating elements from the traditional museum diorama. However, my beaver family consists of an idealized and iconic beaver carved in Portland limestone, in conversation with a beaver skeleton. My beaver dam and pool, constructed from sawn timber and Perspex are conspicuously man made. The ducks line up in order, and the painted backdrop is formed by landscape paintings from the museum collection. They range from wilderness to pastoral, forming a range of backdrops as you walk through the room prompting questions relating to ownership and control of the landscape.