Mapping the Marvellous

Itineraries of curious objects and collections.

Category: collecting

Sophie Calle’s Collection: “Death, I guess.”

Artist Sophie Calle in her studio outside Paris, surrounded by taxidermied animals. Photograph by Alastair Miller in The Independent, Radar, 10.11.2012.

From In the Studio by Karen Wright:

Around us is a menagerie of stuffed animals. Calle tells me they represent people she knows, living and dead. A lion wearing a crown, she says, represents her father; a truncated giraffe, her mother. “She is the giraffe. She is dead. She looks at me with sadness and irony.”

On one wall are works Calle has exchanged with other artists, including Cindy Sherman and Robert Gober. Dramatic eyelashes turn out to be by English artist Lisa Milroy. A series of small coffins, made in China, are for burying pet crickets, Calle tells me.

Why does she collect these macabre items? She shrugs. “I don’t know. Death, I guess.”

Coral Décor

Bathroom in designer S.R. Gambrel’s holiday home, wallpapered with pages from Albertus Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

Sarah Boardman’s natural curiosities library

Glass bell jar

Bookshelf stocked with ‘unnatural’ treasures posing as the real thing

Red precious coral

Cabinet in Hollister and Porter Hovey’s apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Coral-topped bookshelf in Katie Armour’s apartment

Tony Duquette’s design of Dodie Rosenkran’s Palazzo in Venice

Faux coral door handle

Coral wall hanging, imprinted with an original illustration by eighteenth-century naturalist John Ellis

Coral branch in textile designer Carolina Irving’s home

Seashell Nostalgia II

Glass and seashell souvenir of the Empress of Ireland, 1906-14 (Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool).

“Nothing looks as dead as a seashell in suburbia…”

James Hamilton-Paterson, The Great Deep: The Sea and its Thresholds, New York: Random House, 1992, p. 118.

Seashell Nostalgia I

“…la nostalgie pour le goût du cabinet, du mélange d’artificialia et de naturalia, au moment même de l’épanouissement du musée…”

Alexandre Isidore Leroy de Barde, Choix de coquillages, c. 1810 (Louvre, Paris).

“…cette récupération par l’imaginaire artistique de l’univers de la curiosité se transforma au début du XIXe siècle en une forme de mélancolie postrévolutionnaire pour une société d’Ancien Régime qui n’existait plus. Sous cet angle, il est intéressant de méditer aussi le tout premier daguerréotype qui représentait – en ligne direct avec le dessin de Leroy de Barde – des coquillages sur des étagères.”

Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, Coquillages, 1839, daguerréotype (Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris, inv. 8745-2).

Quoted from Anne Lafont, 1740, Un Abrégé du monde: savoirs et collections autour de Dezallier d’Argenville, exh. cat., Paris: INHA, 2012, pp. 18/21.

Dream Kitsch

Colette (1873-1954) surrounded by her paperweight collection. Other famous paperweight collectors include Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Empress Eugénie, Jeanne Lanvin and Eva Perón.

(Image from Celeste Olalquiaga, The Artificial Kingdom: On the Kitsch Experience, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002, p. 61.)


Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this new book by Mark Dion – ‘part exhibition catalogue, part scientific log book, and an archaeology of our fascination with the sea’:

Mark Dion, Oceanomania: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas from the Expedition to the Aquarium (Mack, 2011).

See here, here and here for more info on the exhibition the book accompanied (still heart-broken I missed it).

Oh, and I also can’t wait for Christmas break to begin. Bring it on.

Vintage National Geographic

Megasoma beetle, 1959.

Icicles on Florida oranges, December 1977.

Starfish and sea anemones clustering in a tide pool, Olympic Peninsula, America, February 1974.

“Arab and Frenchman Have Much to Talk About. Dachshund and Shark Do Not.” 1952.

Owls nesting in cactus, 1959 (?).

Seahorse, Florida, 1959.

Minerals, 1954.

Via Voyages Extraordinaires. More at vintage national geographic scans.

Dark Matters

We are all patchwork, and so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment, plays its own game. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others.

-Michel de Montaigne, Of the inconsistency of our actions (1572-1574)

At first, I was a bit reluctant to spend the better part of the afternoon yesterday indoors at the Whitworth Art Gallery, since a six-day wet spell had finally given way to some much needed sunshine and warmth (we’re talking the kind of wet that comes from all sides, envelopes you, blurs the dividing line between sky and surrounding atmosphere, renders an umbrella useless and, with no end in sight, eventually dampens your spirits); but in the end I was glad we did get a chance to see the Dark Matters exhibition, followed by a chat and a cup of green tea at the gallery café with our friends S. and S.

The exhibition seemed a little all over the place at times – it consists of works by ten contemporary artists, complemented by a selection of prints, drawings and paintings from the gallery’s own collection, which are loosely connected by the themes of shadow, light and technology and the related ideas of temporality, absence, truth and wonder.

The most interesting pieces, to me, were the slightly unnerving and destabilising ones, starting with Daniel Rozin’s Snow Mirror, which projects your image and movements onto the diaphanous screen in front of which you are standing, with a slight time lag and into an anthill-like blur of black and white spots that seems to dissolve your identity rather than capturing or outlining it.

Daniel Rozin, Snow Mirror, 2006.

Even more fascinating is Rozin’s Peg Mirror, which consists of 650 circular wooden pieces arranged in a circle that tilt and rotate to capture the shadow of the person walking by or ‘performing’ in front of it. Both of these works are operated by hidden digital technology, but Peg Mirror has quite a mechanical feel to it, which is mostly generated by the noise the wooden components make when moving from one side to the other, like clicking the shutter of an old camera or an army of beetles scurrying across the gallery floor.

Daniel Rozin, Peg Mirror, 2007.

Similarly unsettling are Elin O’Hara Slavick’s cyanotype photographs, which are, at first sight, starkly beautiful objects, reminiscent of Anna Atkins’s nineteenth-century plant cyanotypes. It’s only when reading the titles that the specimens, emerging faintly from the deep blue background, are revealed as a bottle, tree bark and flowers exposed to high-level nuclear radiation during the Hiroshima atomic bombing in 1945.

Elin O'Hara Slavick, Dead Hiroshima Flowers, 2008.

Elin O'Hara Slavick, Bottle Deformed by the A-Bomb, 2008.

Elin O'Hara Slavick, Bark from an A-Bombed Eucalyptus Tree, 2008.

Sweet Play

It’s Friday and national Chocolate Week is coming to an end. To honour both occasions, here’s a neat project by French designer Elsa Lambinet that allows participants to assemble their own chocolate using three different elements or, in design-speak, modules.

The dark chocolate has a hole that holds nuts, fruit, herbs or spices; possible toppings for the milk chocolate include pairs of nuts and raisins; and the white chocolate supports liquids and gelatinous substances poured on top.

In addition, all three types of chocolate contain a compartment into which a flavoured wafer can be inserted.

Et voilà, the finished products.

Build your own chocolate? Sign me up.

Here’s a short video illustrating the process:

Via Colossal Art & Design.

On a side note: after spending two weeks in Berlin this summer where I got addicted to yoli bespoke frozen yoghurt, I can definitely see a business idea in this.

To Tantalise through Distance

Ivory hare with amber eyes.

Research: “… the pleasure of the searching … the way you lose your sense of time when you are researching, are pulled on by whims as much as by intent.”

I had to do a double take to figure out that this is a stag.

Vitrines: “The vitrines exist so that you can see objects, but not touch them: they frame things, suspend them, tantalise through distance.”

They all just beg to be picked up - this one even more so.

Both quotes from Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes. You can see all of the other netsuke in Edmund de Waal’s collection here.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 131 other followers