Affine Nelson, The Researchers Wall, 2018, From the Museum of Biological Diversity, the Ohio State University, Color prints, with giant push pins.
The Researcher’s Wall is a photographic installation created by Affine Nelson. The installation features a
grid of nine life-sized color prints of bird specimens from the Ohio State University’s Museum of
Biological Diversity. The specimens many of which are now considered extinct, are displayed with giant
push-pins and accompanied by handwritten collection tags giving the viewer the chance to inspect the specimens up close and consider the relationship between living things. Some of these photographs
appear desaturated, with pops of blue and yellow on the birds’ feathers. The stopped-down aperture in
each photo results in each element being in focus, while the black border frames the image nicely and
provides contrast against the gallery wall.
The composition of each of the nine photos are quite interesting. The birds are arranged in a grid-like
pattern, which creates a column-like effect. The dominant lines in each photo are the birds, which give the
overall piece a sense of symmetry and balance. However, some photos feel less balanced and less
intentional with a bit less symmetry.
From a distance the birds almost resemble fishing lures. This adds another layer of depth to the piece. The installation encourages the viewer to consider the role that these once living specimens played in their respective ecosystems and how they relate to other living things. The giant pushpins used to display the photos are reminiscent to when people pin memories to a bulletin board.
The Researcher’s Wall is a thought-provoking and visually striking not only because of its size, but also
because of its deeper meaning to the relationship between humans and the natural world. With its cool
toned temperature, grid-like composition, and contrasting black border, it provides a unique opportunity
for the viewer to inspect and reflect on the specimens on display.
Nelson brings attention to the issue of animal extinction. The life-sized prints of aviary specimens, many
of which are now extinct, encourages the viewer to consider the fleeting nature and the impact that
humans have had on the environment. The installation serves as a reminder of the importance of
preserving biodiversity and the role of museums in preserving memories of lost species.
Overall, Affine Nelson’s The Researcher’s Wall is a beautiful blend of art and science that encourages the
viewer to contemplate the relationship between living things and the impact that humans have had on the environment. The work is currently on display at The Opalka Gallery, located at 140 New Scotland Ave, Albany, NY 12208.