Riding Ghosts

April 2020

In the West we are aware of these two creatures but many believe their folklore existence is irrational and unproven. Yet, we still endeavour to record their various sightings and speculate on their appearance. There are even people who have dedicated their time and efforts into collecting, documenting, and making sense of any data that is available regarding the existence of these animals. The job of these connoisseurs – cryptozoologists – is to prove the presence of entities from folklore records. They use rationalised scientific methods to reason the unreasonable. Essentially, using data as a form of medicine to keep Nessie and Yeti alive in their supposed natural habitats.

The French-Dutch designer Pauline Rip, like many before her, found these mythical creatures’ existence captivating. In a similar way to the cryptozoologists she succumbed to the beauty of imagining these fictitious beasts living in our own reality. The stories of Nessie and Yeti have become a metaphor for Rip to understand how the human mind believes in the unbelievable through a primitive need to control all aspects of creation.

From her in-depth research and developed admiration for the illogical beauty of these animals, Rip’s project Riding Ghosts poetically works to harness their control. Through the data gathered by the cryptozoologists and help from a statistician, Rip presents two bespoke saddles. The choice to design these saddles came from Rip’s realisation that “as humans we tend to want to ride a lot of beasts”; it allows us to feel in charge of another entity. Therefore, these saddles act as objects of domestication, they inform their audience about the human desire for authority. Even if this authority is somewhat unwarranted and misplaced.

In the process of creating the saddles Rip sought out the most appropriate materials for each of the creatures’ environments and body types: rabbit fur to ensure warmth for the rider of a Yeti and specially sourced cow leather to sit comfortably upon the back of Nessie. Through the use of a rational and scientific approach Rip has provided a gateway for audiences to access these myths. These beautifully made saddles demonstrate how science and data, when treated in the right way, can prove a fact as much as they can a fiction.

Fictions presented as facts surround us on a daily basis, such as fake news, unexplainable political situations, silent environmental threats, and invisible viruses. This project is therefore appealing right now because it allows its audience to dominate and be in control of creatures that they know cannot exist, it allows people to escape the daily battle of staying on top of the world around them. Rip has designed saddles that are waiting to be used by humans to escape from reality in a realistic way.

By Riding Ghosts on saddles made from the cryptozoologists’ ghost data Yeti and Nessie mythically live on. Their mystery is physically sewn together with the rationality of scientific data that together provide another route to another truth. As Rip explains these “technical objects highlight our ability to theorise the invisible, and therefore domesticate it”.

It is, therefore, that as riders of these ghosts we are able to see and believe the absurd, irrational, and mythical reality of the world around us.


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Pauline Rip, Riding Ghosts, close-up of the Loch Ness saddle, the Netherlands, 2019
Pauline Rip, Riding Ghosts, close-up of the Loch Ness saddle, the Netherlands, 2019
Pauline Rip, Riding Ghosts, close-up of the Loch Ness saddle, the Netherlands, 2019
Doreen taking an alligator ride, Los Angeles, California, 1920, photographer unknown
Osa Johnson, riding a zebra, Africa, 1921, photographer unknown