The Northern White Rhino Went Extinct, but for Two Minutes at a Time, the Animal Makes a Digital Comeback

by Alice George/Smithsonianmag.com

He first appears as a crude collection of 3-D pixels—or voxels. Soon, he looks like a conglomeration of blocks morphing into the shape of an animal. Gradually, his image evolves until he becomes a sharp representation of a northern white rhino, grunting and squealing as he might in a grassy African or Asian field. There comes a moment—just a moment—when the viewer’s eyes meet his. Then, the 3-D creature vanishes, just like his sub-species, which due to human poaching is disappearing into extinction.

The Substitute, a digitally projected artwork, was produced by British artist Alexandra Daisy GinsbergCooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and a Dutch museum, the Cube Design Museum, commissioned the work, and Cooper Hewitt recently displayed it as part of the exhibition “Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial.” The work is now newly acquired into the Cooper Hewitt collections.

The last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died in 2018, and the two surviving females are too old to reproduce. Scientists have used sperm from Sudan and another male that died earlier to fertilize two eggs from the females, Fatu and Najin, who now reside at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The hope is…

 

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