The last male northern white rhinoceros, named Sudan, died in 2018. There are two females left. This artwork is a tribute to the species, and was created with a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (DCASE), to bring awareness to the extinction of animals in our lifetime.
This is a life-size replica of the northern white rhino species, which inflates and deflates on a 3-minute cycle. When Inflated, it shows the magnificence of the animal, and when it is deflated we are reminded that the species is extinct. The inflation also references the attempt to bring back the species, which scientists are trying to do through “artificial reproductive techniques.” They have extracted and frozen the last northern white Rhino’s sperm to use in fertilizing eggs taken from a closely related subspecies, the southern white rhinoceros. The action of inflation and deflation is also like the inhaling and exhaling action of lungs, symbolizing the breath of life.
The idea for making this artwork started with my observation of the sad piles of deflated holiday lawn decorations that slump on people’s lawns when the air is taken out. Like those lawn decorations, rhinos and many other wild animals are treated like a commodity, with no value as living things beyond the price they can bring at market. Rhinoceroses are killed, illegally by poachers, for their horns which are used in the Chinese medicine trade. Other species like the pangolin and bats are used for meat and also used in the Chinese medicine trade. The loss of this animal is a cautionary tale. Human hunting of wild animals and encroachment on their habitats is causing their extinction, and we must do all we can to stop these magnificent creatures from going extinct.