The Null Device
Grille-mounted stuffed toys
A New York Times article hypothesises on the significance of stuffed toys lashed to the front of trucks
Robert Marbury, an artist who photographed dozens of Manhattan bumper fauna for a project in 2000 (see urbanbeast.com/faq/strapped.html), said he had once asked a trash hauler why he had a family of three mismatched bears strapped to his rig. "He said: 'Yo, man, I drive a garbage truck. How am I going to get the ladies to look at me?' " Mr. Marbury recalled.
Monroe Denton, a lecturer in art history at the School of Visual Arts, traced the phenomenon's roots back to the figureheads that have animated bows of ships since the time of the pharaohs. "There was some sort of heraldic device to deny the fact of this gigantic machine," he said. "You would have these humanizing forms, anthropomorphic forms - a device that both proclaims the identity of the machine and conceals it."
"There's a transference in this," she said. "There's this soft, flesh-and-bone sanitation worker, who knows very well they could be crushed against this truck. The creature could be the sanitation worker in a very dangerous position, so the animal could be a stand-in."
"Binding a soft thing to a very powerful truck - there's a kind of macho thing about that," she said.
Scooby's story lends credence to the theory of Mr. Denton, the art historian, that the grille-mounted stuffed animal draws from the same well as the "abject art" movement that flourished in the 1990's and trafficked heavily in images of filth and of distressed bodies.
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