Billebaude n ° 11



The imaginary animal is the one invented in tales and myths. This imaginary evolves over time. It is relative to what is real, to how we know animals, how we live with them. Mermaid, octopus, mammoth, owl are told by researchers in history, anthropology, literature… like these animals whose territories lie at the narrow border between reality and imagination. Do they exist or not? What myths do we invent about them? With the artist Julien Salaud, of whom we publish a gallery, animals hybridize. Faced with the disappearance of biodiversity, another imaginary bestiary emerges from the pen of contemporary writers. We also explore the question of the place occupied by animals in our imagination by delivering to you a letter written by “the Others”, the animals of which the philosopher Paul Shepard imagines what they could tell us.


Billebaude Collection

96 pages, 230 x 300 mm
Public price TTC France:

François Sommer Foundation

Anne de Malleray
Director of collection
Tel: 01 53 01 92 40

Facebook page Billebaude




In his autobiographical account A year in the countryside (Gallimard, 1988), Sue Hubbell, a biologist by training, converted into a solitary beekeeper in Missouri, quotes this classification unearthed by Jorge Luis Borges in a "Chinese encyclopedia". She tells : “This list made us laugh, a few friends and I, and we decided that our reaction said more about us and our Western European way of thinking than it said about a supposedly Eastern worldview. "

In our eyes, the border between what is real and what is imaginary is clearly delimited and very tight: this is why this mixture of genres makes us smile. What we hold to be real is what is true, objective, produced by scientific rationality. Everything else is imaginary. This number of Billebaude questions this founding distinction of our Western way of thinking by exploring more particularly its influence on our relationships with animals. We have chosen to put real and imaginary animals on the same level - from thylacine to the owl via dahu - in order to try to understand how these imaginary animals are born and what they reveal about our relationships with "real" animals, and, more broadly, our vision of the world.

Anthropologist Boris P. Chichlo tells how, from mammoth tusks flush with Siberian soil, hunters "tinker" with a sacred creature taking the features of a "Aquatic bull" or "Underground reindeer". The artist Martin Jarrie presents, with his series of drawings, a story of our Western imagination of the owl, which as a symbol of ancient wisdom will end up being nailed to the doors of barns. Anthropologist and sociologist of science, Pierre Lagrange retraces an expedition in search of sirens. If their presence was taken seriously by Western anthropologists, they ended up trapped in the socio-technical networks deployed in an attempt to provide material and scientific proof of their existence.

These stories, by focusing on creatures that navigate, in time and space, between real and imaginary, offer us clues to understand how our imaginations are made and unmade around animals, and how these categories that we thought stable are permeable and changeable. They invite us to take the imagination seriously as a space that can say something about our relationships with animals.

If we follow the thesis of the philosopher Paul Shepard, whose “Message on behalf of the Others” we publish - a letter written to humans by animals - which he left us as a heritage, our interior life is constituted. , since the dawn of time, by and with animal presences. He tells us how, over thousands of years of living together, they have inspired and lived in us by shaping our imaginations. From them we derive our dances, our adornments, our symbols. What are their massive disappearance doing today and their status as a domesticated mass or a threatened savage to our inner lives, our arts, and our imagination?


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17.05.17-night-hunting and nature-museum


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