Binocular Menagerie

Leslie Thornton

Times Square Advertising Coalition, Winkleman Gallery

For the second anniversary of Midnight Moment in May 2014, animals of all kinds filled Times Square’s spectacular screens, with Leslie Thornton’s Binocular Menagerie turning the square into an urban jungle every night.

Binocular Menagerie featured a wide array of animals of various species—birds, reptiles, mammals, some exotic, others familiar and commonplace. Thornton used a simple play of direct and abstracted imagery to bring out dimensions of animal behavior that generally go by unheeded.

Two circular fields appeared side by side, creating a binocular effect. On the left were images of the animals, beautifully captured doing what they do in the wild and in captivity. On the right, the very same image was folded back on itself in a centripetal pattern, reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. The two circular fields were intimately connected: the movements of the animals on the left were remapped into the elegant mathematical abstraction on the right.

The effect was unexpected and profound: the viewer noticed minute tremors and shifts (a small heart beating, for example) in the left sphere, by catching the very same resonant motion, multiplied, recast, and disembodied in the pattern on the right. The effect was of a glimpse into another being, a view prior to language and outside of our expectations. Thornton’s beautiful, meditative camerawork located the movements of predator/prey relations in the most subtle fragments and configurations of behavior and morphology. All of her work has this intensity, an almost painfully precise focus on the fundamental minutiae of being in the world.

“In Binocular Menagerie, I wanted to create an exotic environment of ‘almost-nature’ for Times Square, in which there is co-habitation of animal, machine, architecture and man. I thought of multiple King Kongs, both horrible and sublime at the same time, and I thought of taking over this whole visual field with small revelations.” -- Leslie Thornton

Photographs by Ka-Man Tse for @TSqArts.

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