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Wednesday, 21 April 2010


The Library of Babel / In and Out of Place addresses the production of meaning and our many modes of perception. The exhibition avoids imposing any final meaning on the works shown. Instead, it invites you to discover connections between works and to forge your own interpretations, exceeding received wisdom about particular art works, styles or artists. The salon-style hang in the former Methodist chapel creates an overwhelming environment and invites a more detailed consideration of individual artworks.

On 15th April [DoR] attended an evening Salon event in conjunction with the exhibition The Library of Babel / In and Out of Place, the result of Anna-Catharina Gebbers' one year residency.

Sue Pearce, expert in museum studies, sociologist Sarah Thornton, and Anne Welsh, specialist in cataloguing and classification, discussed collecting, why we collect and how collections help us to make sense of the things.

The first to speak was Sue Pearce, about the way in which collections are built up and how they are perceived as collections. Pearce spoke forcefully of how history can be decoded through the collection of material objects - groups of the 'same' are recognised as a moment in history. Our collections are a bank of our memories, some believe that these objects can actually encompass the essence of your grandmother, your mother. These objects allow us to feel a connection with someone or something that has been lost. An object can represent the physically tangible past in the present.

Sue Pearce recollects that our collections help to create the identity of the collector, that the collector has a relationship with the object - 'I love the object as the object loves me'

These comments led on to the subject of eroticism and the desire and pleasure we draw from material objects - this is not so much true desire as lust. Advertising is a successful example of the way in which humans are seduced by material objects to satisfy a psychological need - 'If I buy these trainers I will be a great runner'.

Pearce believes that collections are immediately created when one object is placed purposely with another, a positive discrimination towards certain objects - 'I choose this over that'.

Humans create meaning in life by emotionalising over a material object and by enhancing their lives through these help to create an identity, the objects we choose to collect and place together are only symbolic to ourselves.

Anne Welsh strongly believes in the classification and categorisation of objects in her case books. For a long time Welsh spoke of the Universal Library, the only aim in life being the importance and need to collect/read all published knowledge. In the present day this has now been summarised to the need to collect 'only the best' / 'only the newest'. Obviously attempting to read everything that has ever been published in one's lifetime is not a realistic tangible goal. Welsh described the pure vastness of the published word, commenting and demonstrating that the huge amount we see and consume is only ever a tiny percentage of what actually exists.
The primary satisfaction we get out of our collection is one of goal setting. Humans tend to set tragets and parameters to complete. 'I have these', 'I need this to complete the collection'. When the collection is complete they have succeeded in thier quest.
How do we ever orientate ourselves without any order?
Is there any point in having everything if you can find nothing?
Books and objects do not need order, we are the ones that need order to make sense of ourselves and the world.
[Eloise P. Jones]

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