Art and taxonomy walked into a bar together. No wait, it was a school. Or was it a gallery? This very interesting information came to us from The Creator’s Project in their article, “A Giant Cabinet of Curiosities Challenges Taxonomy Traditions | Liberal Arts.”

A bewildering array of objects lines the shelves of an imposing, three-story cabinet at the entrance to the art gallery at Vassar College. As artist-in-residence at Vassar, New York-based artist Mark Dion is known for these cabinets, creating similar installations for the Tate Gallery, PS1, and the MoMA. Dion assembled this latest work, Universal Collection, combining all of the displayed objects from the college’s various archives.

Every object is placed meticulously, but the relationship of each set of objects to the next is oblique. Each object is familiar but in this context is twisted just slightly from reality.

“If the rigidity of taxonomy is carefully undermined, interesting things begin to happen,” Dion tells The Creators Project. “These fantastical objects become even more uncanny when they become untethered to their function or narrative.”

This may cause many taxonomists to start twitching in the chaos, but according to Dion, it is in that chaos that interesting questions are asked: where were these objects before they were here? Where have they been? Who has handled them and why?

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Access Innovations, the world leader in thesaurus, ontology, and taxonomy creation and metadata application.