Zoos were once a primary location for urban Americans to encounter “nature” escape and remedy the woes of city life. They served as convenient islands of voyeuristic entertainment accessible within the city proper. Today, American zoos consider themselves institutions of science and emissaries of conservation—hoping that if they connect visitors with animals they will engender efforts to save them and their habitats. The African Savanna, recently unveiled at the San Francisco Zoo, exemplifies this contemporary American stance on viewing animals and nature. I offer a descriptive analysis of the spatial constructs and relationships, the geographical and temporal placement of the exhibit and the representation of this way of seeing to the outside world. This paper seeks to investigate the ambivalence of wonder and discomfort felt in viewing the African Savanna—and how it reflects the larger relationship of Western culture to nature.
|Keywords:||Zoos, Nature, Animals, Landscape, Amusement|
MA/MFA Candidate, Visual & Critical Studies Department & Design Department, California College of the Arts, San Francisco, CA, USA
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