“We brought three oxen, a few chickens, a tiger-cat, and another animal quite extraordinary, that the Portuguese call ‘Capivard,’ which has the body of a pig, the head of a rabbit, and thick hair the color of ash: it has no tail at all, and sits on its rear quarters like a monkey. It is almost always in the water, and does not venture onto land except at night when it ravages all of the gardens and trees that have fruit.”
Presumably on some afternoon in Brazil in June of 1696, a capybara did in fact sit down under a banana tree to have a snack, and Sieur Froget happened to notice her. When we look into the eye of the capivard that appears to us via a re-post of a scan of an engraving of a drawing of a “real” natural scene, what exactly are we looking at? Such an exercise invites reflection on what will happen as the internet ages, and images continue to circulate for decades or even centuries, losing their metadata and contexts, but (and here the break with print culture is a clear one) retaining their basic form. When we look into the knowing eye of Froger’s capybara, it is interesting to reflect on how many layers of perception and reproduction that single event in time has passed through to reach us today — and to meditate on how many aeons into the future this record of a chance encounter in Brazil will endure, preserved in amber, as it were, by the seemingly immortal medium of the internet.