Scarecrows, Frighteners and Animists
Introduction to Terriculology
Did you know that there is a scientific field devoted to the scarecrows?Location: Ethnographic Museum of the National Museum, Kinsky Folly, Kinského zahrada 98, Praha 5
They are here since the dawn of time. Their existence is connected with man´s need to protect his crop or livestock from intruders, in times when he was not able to be around. For all these years of faithfull service, we have showed little gratitude to them. They were only incorporated to pejorative saying: „You look like a scarecrow.“
Photographer Rudolf Šmíd has been monitoring the scarecrows, both photographically and sociologically, already sixteen years. Initially, he has been photographing them only as ethno-graphical objects, but soon realized that their life is similar to human life. They are growing old, loving each other, and also, of course, drifting apart. In all these years, at fields and wineyards, he has met various celebrities and folktale beings. For example, he has met Michael Jackson close to Dobříš, and at wineyard near Velké Bílovice The Sleeping Beauty. At Sedlčansko region, he has met Death itself, and last year in February, even Japanese god-scarecow Kubeiko himself. They say he knows everything, but he is not able to move.
Because of his secondary profession as sociologist, six years ago at Masaryk University in Brno, Rudolf Šmíd founded new independent scientific field for scarecrows – terriculology (terriculus/a – Latin: scarecrow). This exhibition represents its visualized form.
Three basic types of scarecrows:
The most common type of scarecrow is a dummy – object set up on construction of a wooden cross which creates, by its very presence, an illusion of human figure.
The construction of the cross has no connection with modern meaning of cross as symbol of protection and prosperity, let alone with any religion. The cross is more just a simple construction of human figure. Neolithical paintigs of human figures also support this view – they are resembling the scarecrows themselves.
Dummy is typical representative of recycled art. Anything which could not be used at home is being used during his creation. His clothing follows fashion trends, although with little delay. Stereotypized notion of scarecrow with fedora and jacket padded with straw is very distinct from contemporary reality. Fedoras are hard to come-by today, and head of the scarecrow is more often created with plastic bucket or cut-off plastic PET bottle.
Frighteners and Scares
Against an uninvited guests, crops are also protected by means of various technical inventions – frighteners, scares, decoys.
These scarecrows do not mimic human appearance - they are supposed to frighten away potential intruders by their noise, movement or smell. In last centuries, mainly because of discovery of the New World, structure of European crops undertook an important change. Along the birds, new enemies of scarecrows appeared. New cultivated plants such as maize or potatoes became targets of deer and wild boar. Because of them, some scarecrow innovation took place. Contrary to the birds who have highly developed sight and almost no sense of smell, the wild boar´s most dominant sense is the smell. Older scarecrow improvements were hair with human smell, tied to a bag attached to the scarecrow. Newer ones are various perfumes and after-shave lotions, by which scarecrows continously scent themselves.
Animists – dead bodies of animals and birds – are very rare in the Czech Republic.
It is not pleasant to look upon them, but finding one is always fascinating and brings me to the very dawn of human civilization. The animists are maybe the oldest type of scarecrows. To be sure, their „manufacture“ is - and always was - so easy. Killing state protected species of noxious animals would be very expensive, so farmers instead use dead hens or rabbits padded with straw. In this postmodern age, these archetypal objects are often supplemented by contemporary attributes such as used CD-ROMs or plastic PET bottles, which give them almost surrealistic look.