A Cabinet of Curiousities
January 2, 2014 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Triumph of the Strange
Is curiosity, however, even a coherent concept? What, if anything, unites the walrus and the Rolodex? According to Dillon and Warner, curiosity is lustful and avaricious, yet as playful as Alice in Wonderland. It distracts itself by flirting with astonishment yet is driven to exacting inspection. It loves secrecy and enigma yet is insatiably questioning and bent on decipherment. It adores intricacy and ingenuity, only to find how evanescent, incommunicable, and random they can be. It's harmless fun and has "an innocent eye"—a central theme, suggested by the Hayward Gallery curator Roger Malbert—yet leads to dangerous revelations. Or maybe it makes dangerous revelations because of this innocence: It follows its own hunches because it doesn't see where they lead. Think of the character Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet: "I'm seeing something that was always hidden."

Object Lesson
Unlike the Wunderkammern, where the elements of what we now call natural history were mainly objects of puzzlement and awe—not to speak of décor—the curiosity cabinets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries mark the onset of a desire to grasp and control the mystery which made of nature such an enthralling realm. Once Wunderkammern began to lose their allure in the face of, among other things, a colonial expansion that made their treasures far more familiar and available than befits a bona fide object of wonder, the curiosity cabinet became the pr­ivileged form of exhibiting such goods.
Wunderkammern vs. Cabinets of Curiosity

Collecting for the Kunstkammer
Ethnographica in early modern Kunstkammern and their perception
8 Cabinets Of Curiosities By Famous Architects

Wall Mounted Wonder Cabinet and The Curiousity Cabinet at the Zymoglyphic Museum (previously)
posted by the man of twists and turns (6 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Cabinets of Curiosity: the Web as Wunderkammer
Reflecting on this, I began to notice Wunderkammer-like displays in contemporary web presentation. Perhaps the internet loves curiosity cabinets because it is, itself, a curiosity cabinet -- in a manner of speaking, of course. Let's take Pinterest as an example:
Responses to Cabinets of Curiosity
Froger's Capybara and the Metaphysics of Memes
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:13 PM on January 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

you had me at strange
posted by philip-random at 2:20 PM on January 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Zymoglyphic! A new word…and a new museum (in San Mateo) I have to visit, which may not be as remarkable as The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, but it looks fantastic.

(By the way, I went to the Worst Museum in the World last summer. The International Cryptology Museum in Portland, Maine. A bunch of plastic toys and newspaper clippings…awful, even if it were free, which it ain't.)

The FPP had a fabulous new alliterative phrase midway through its historical analysis of "curiosity." "...curiosity has always courted calumny."

Most of my favorite artists (Haruki Murakami, David Lynch, Max Ernst, Thelonious Monk, Franz Kafka) have pretty obviously flirted with Curiosities.

Life would hardly be worth living without the bizarre, the strange, the beguiling, the surprising, the unimaginable, the obscure, the hilarious, the incomprehensible: The Curious. And don't get me started on Mystery!
posted by kozad at 4:47 PM on January 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

and a new museum (in San Mateo) I have to visit, which may not be as remarkable as The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, but it looks fantastic.

MeFi's own
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:53 PM on January 2, 2014

Curiouser and curiouser! These articles are relevant to my interests: many thanks for posting them. It looks like the Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing touring exhibition will be at the Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Norwich for a couple more days, then at the Art Gallery, Newlyn & The Exchange, Penzance from 25 January - 26 April 2014 (perhaps I’ll even be able to get down there at some point to see it), then in Amsterdam from June to August.
posted by misteraitch at 3:10 AM on January 3, 2014

Thinking about William Gibson, Joseph Cornell, and Count Zero - "There's this old article by Gibson in Wired magazine on re-mix culture. Makes an interesting case to connect Cornell and the boxes to mash-ups and remixes."
posted by kliuless at 4:44 PM on January 6, 2014

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