The exhibition features 18 000 stuffed animals and are in the large gallery 356 S Mission Road in Los Angeles. There are many wooden rowboats, a grand piano and many other objects usually found in the gallery.
All of them now are filled and covered with stuffed animals. Some of the stuffed animals are arranged while others as simply scattered randomly. There are all types of stuffed animals you can and can’t imagine.
The exhibition also has shiny fabrics, disco balls and many more items. Additional TVs display Palestine’s sound and performance pieces from the 1970s.
And the stuffed animals covering the piano and other items aren’t simply for show. They are essential part of Palestine’s work. “I create a unique environment and a unique atmosphere that then you can be transported to another place, differently than you would for jazz or classical music or rock’n’roll,” Palestine explains to the Guardian. “Each of those genres create their own world, and have their own world. Mine that I’ve created – which is sort of unique – dates now a long time I’ve been doing it. And it certainly soothes me; I couldn’t imagine doing it without it. But I now have a big following, and it soothes them too. So it soothes us all.”
Stuffed animals are essential for Palentine’s life. Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940s and 1950s, Palestine adored his teddy bears, finding to his horror that his mother had thrown them away. “My mother, when I was around 10 or 11, thought I was too old to have these kinds of toys,” Palestine recalled ruefully. “One day when I was at school, she took all my animals and threw them out. I came back and I no longer had any of my friends – my cuddly friends.”
Today he has a lot more stuffed animals. “I call them divinities,” Palestine says. “But I use it as a sacred secular term, meaning I believe it’s sacred – it really is important to me and gives me all the reinforcement that sacred things can without it being dogmatic”, he adds.
“This was also something that I learned from indigenous peoples, and Hindu culture, Aboriginal culture, and Polynesian culture, Native American culture,” he explains. “When you have a sort of soulmate animal, they’re with you for all your life. It’s something sacred and something continuous. It’s not just a childish, childlike, young person, baby-growing-up, transitional object … Your animal spirit stays with you.”