Bats and Frogs, Horns and Teeth : An Exploration of, and Exercise in, Collection and Display
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This project was informed and inspired by the tradition of "Cabinets of Wonder," often called Kunstkammern or Wunderkammern. These cabinets first appeared during the time of the Renaissance, and in them individuals would assemble and order vast collections of natural and symbolic objects. Prior to the Renaissance, early collections were owned primarily by wealthy men and were assembled into "studiolos," or small chambers filled with antiquities and gemstones, religious relics and mystical objects such as horns of unicorns (Blom 16). These collections amassed various artifacts from around the world - some valuable, some extraordinary - in an effort to represent the vastness of human knowledge in a tangible way. From the studiolo evolved Wunderkammern, which were privately owned by ordinary individuals, unimpeded by lack of wealth. Like studiolos, these cabinets were attempts to explore, assemble and order knowledge of the world using representative objects, and often celebrated the miraculous and wonderful, or the odd, the exotic and the macabre. The inclination of modern collectors to celebrate and marvel at parts of the world he or she finds particularly extraordinary is something that is often overshadowed by "obsession" and "hoarding" in critical discussions of collection, but is definitely something to be noted. Though resistance to standard systems of order and display is often characterized as selfish and transgressive, it's important to recognize the many wonderful and creative ways people collect, and to remember that the institution of the public museum evolved in its own social and historical context, and certainly has its own biases, burdens and political bent. The exploration of collection through audio seeks to explore a return to the Wunderkammer in modern private collection in opposition to the more traditional and publicly sanctioned institution of the modern museum. The author records conversations with eight collectors including her father whose collection of artifacts of the author’s childhood inspired the project, and Tyree Guyton, the creator of the well-known Heidelberg Project in Detroit.