Dane Mitchell

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1976

bird of unknown affinities, Manu antiquus

  • 2022
  • Brass, mild steel, plaster of Paris
  • Anonymous gift, 2023
  • 285 x 600 x 600mm
  • 2023/008.a-e

Dane Mitchell deals in the invisible and elusive; things lost, replaced and forgotten. Here, the label for an empty museum mount identifies the missing specimen as a species of extinct bird that lived in Te Waipounamu, the South Island, approximately 33 to 23 million years ago. Its existence was established in 1946 by a British zoologist from a fossilised fragment of wishbone he found in north Otago. Researchers have speculated that it was an early albatross or a prehistoric ‘false-toothed’ seabird, but very little is known for certain. Accordingly, its scientific name is conspicuously unspecific: Manu means ‘bird’ in te reo Māori, and antiquus is Latin for ‘old’ or ‘ancient’. Mitchell’s slight, spare mount emphasises this perilous hold on history, as humans teeter at the edge of an age of mass extinctions.

(Absence, May 2023)

Exhibition History