Tra Natura e Artificio: il Museo di Storia Innaturale di Dario Ghibaudo

Sonia Rezzonico

In my paper, I will suggest that the artificial character of natural museum objects could be used as a useful notion to review Ghibaudo’s work in questioning the threshold between the natural and the artificial; the organic and the inorganic worlds, natural reality and human invention. In his project, inspired by the Enlightenment Cabinet, the Italian artist evokes the notion of fictum, in its double etymological meaning as ‘fiction’ as well as ‘product’, on three different levels. First, in ironically addressing the traditional use of captions, dioramas and the other classic devices in natural history museums, through borrowing the scientific language of naturalists in order to name his marvellous creatures and describe their imaginary habitats. Pseudo-Latin words are here used to give credibility to the things described. Secondly, Ghibaudo’s ‘creatures’ are ficta because they do not exist in nature and they are instead the product of the invention of the artist. Finally, his plants and animals are ficta because they trick our usual perception into creating the illusion of an existing reality. The artist’s skilful hyperrealism makes his ‘creatures’ look natural, even though they are actually made of inorganic matter. However, these artworks are just as fictional as names and categories themselves. I’ll show you how the study of the dichotomy between natural specimens and artifacts could be fruitful to investigate the notion of museum.