James Benning, taxidermist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This essay explores the relationship between cinema and taxidermy, and some of the ways in which artists and experimental film-makers have used the moving image to engage with the ramifications of stuffing and preserving animals. It is argued that the taxidermied creature’s eerie mixture of death and life has particular resonance for film-makers with an interest in slowness and stasis. James Benning’s 2014 film natural history, which was shot behind the scenes at the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna, serves as a central focus. As with other films by Benning, natural history can be understood as both structuralist and a landscape film. The film is compared to works depicting stuffed animals by other experimental film-makers who explore stillness and slowness; it is proposed that such film-makers can be conceived of as taxidermists. Finally, the article looks at the complex relations between cinema, taxidermy and sound. The aural dimension of Benning’s film, missing from many other artists’ engagements with taxidermy, enables a richer exploration of its operations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-51
Number of pages14
JournalThe Moving Image Review & Art Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • James Benning
  • Taxidermy
  • Experimental film
  • Museums
  • Silence
  • Sound
  • Structural film
  • Natural history
  • Slowness
  • Stasis


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