Natural History – Ethnic Inventories

Ethnic Inventories

In this series of faces belonging to various ethnic groups, this late 19th century German edition of Buffonwas published
after Darwin’s work had been widely read, and already the influence of Social Darwinism could be felt.
The faces are arranged in an order that suggests a hierarchy of superiority starting with European
and descending down through Arab, Kamschadale, northwest American, Chinese etc..
The photos of these faces are traces left by time on the backs of the engravings.
We are left with an impression of loss and eclipse of the races as if they have
become vague memories of things passed. But like ideas long ago discredited,
remnants continue to influence our perception of reality.
So the remains of racism and superiority are mixed with an
almost nostalgic regret of the destruction of the nonEuropean cultures,
just as the entire series suggests that man on a whole risks becoming a memory.

.                                                                                                                 Maurice Lapin