Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector —

I went enthusiastically to the exhibition about collecting – those who know me well know that I like collecting, collections and collectors a lot. I did my final year project on it at university and it’s been a mild obsession ever since.

I was disappointed to find that this riotous, spectacular and curiosity inspiring subject had been presented in the most sterile way I’ve seen yet. Artists’ collections had been shown next to one example of their work, but in lots of cases it was a photography collection next to some photographs or a taxidermy collection next to some taxidermy. In this sense the exhibition did a very blunt job of drawing a line between the inspiration and the art it inspired, in most cases making the artworks look like bad copies of the collections.

The worst offender was the display of abstract painter Howard Hodgkin’s collection of Indian pictures. The pictures are small intricate paintings that have a strong use of colour. Outside the room was hung a piece of Hodgkin’s work, all big brush strokes and block colour. Yes, the use of colour was an obvious thread but other than that, this lone, decontextualised artwork, when hung next to the collection (of paintings!) seemed frankly inferior. Surely this is not the point of the exhibition? An exhibition which is dealing with both artist and collection should showcase each in it’s best light but this reduced both somehow.

The other aspect which was lacking was the critical angle about the politics of collecting itself. Whilst collections as artworks was tackled as a topic in the Martin Wong/Danh Vo piece, the idea of artists acquiring items as a whole collection, or from other collections was absent, as was the idea of ownership or authorship through collecting. In the case of Howard Hodgkin the fact that the pieces in his collection had been created as art, had then been collected and returned to object status, loaned to the Ashmolean Museum as ‘His’ collection and then displayed at the Barbican again seems to be a journey that could benefit from some curatorial scrutiny.

Of course all of these gripes are just that – an enthusiast rambling, and there were good bits. Showing all the packing cases that the collections and artworks had come in (albeit in a corner) was brilliant, and I liked the rugs which were liberally strewn around each area. 

(N.B. I’m sure some of these issues are at least touched on in the audio guide or the book, but I shouldn’t have to pay £40 to get a bit of thoughtful insight when I’ve already paid £12 to get in.)


The Lonely Image

contiguity_triangles I'm interested in the relationships between objects. For the purposes of this piece of writing, 'objects' will be 2D images or titles/words.

I am interested in the relationships which can be formed between two objects when they are presented side by side- as in a book spread. The spread creates a context for the objects to inhabit and invites the viewer to understand not only two separate images, but also the narrative which the objects create together, through merit of sharing the same space.

There are three ways in which adjacent objects may reference each other.

The first is to do with the physicality of the objects - colour, shape, form -  strictly aesthetics. Two images may refer to each through merit of both being blue, or the focal point being a clock etc.

The second is concerned with the symbolical nature of an object and the ideas, attributes, and meanings which such objects reference. For example an image of a beach representing a memory of a holiday, a shell as a souvenir of the same experience, or a train ticket of the journey completed to get to the holiday. Other examples of ideological referencing could be religious symbols, celebrity icons, or brand logos.

The third referencing type is one of labelling and frames. Objects, even if attached arbitrarily, through their nature of sharing a page, refer to each other and have a dialogue. Through merit of being under the same title or being grouped together, these artefacts are forced to begin a discourse with each other. This is known as contiguity- from Aristotle’s ‘Laws of Association’- whereby things which are in close proximity are linked and ‘readily associated’.

Referencing is what allows objects to connect with each other and have a dialogue. Whether this dialogue is interesting or communicates the intentions of the curator depends on how well those objects rhyme together.

The skill of rhyming objects is similar to that of the story teller: to create either an ideological or physical (material or aesthetic) thread between a group of objects to create a fuller, deeper understanding of their context, history, and narrative. Juxtaposition of objects is very important and a pair may still rhyme even if the neighbouring objects are incomplete. Rhyme can give a spread a certain poetic and approximate logic.

I am particularly interested in the accidental ways in which objects may rhyme- when two things are abstracted from their original context and framed as a pair to extract something entirely unexpected and meaningful. contiguity_twofortheroad_01contiguity_twofortheroad_02 James Turnley created 'Two for the Road' as "an editing experiment based on the visual similarities that can be found when photos are presented side by side." Through merit of proximity the images share a contiguous dialogue. Through this, the image's messages are skewed and a new message emerges. In a similar way that the title of an artwork affects the context it is viewed in, so when objects are put together they cannot help but be changed by each other. contiguity_themthangs_02contiguity_themthangs_01 'Two for the Road' is a curated attempt to create rhyme. 'Them Thangs' is run by Justin Blyth: 'It is a collection of things I like, intended for visual inspiration'. It is perhaps best described as a visual blogzine. The display of the images is part curated and part organic. Images are selected but then allowed to flow through the page, creating many and different relationships. Images which ordinarily would seem unremarkable, when viewed as a collection (through benefit of being physically/aesthetically, ideologically or contiguously related) become a necessary part of a captivating and beautiful whole. contiguity_wapm_01contiguity_wapm_02contiguity_wapm_03 Words and Pictures is a website I am in the process of creating with Mike which attempts to cultivate the moment of rhyme by allowing uploaded content to appear next to each other randomly. This is to further explore the themes discussed here: particularly contiguity, and also to create content for an off line printed magazine of curated and edited pairs of objects.

I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

i_wear_my_sunglasses_at_night_by_whitewhitewine A little story: I was on an image search for something unrelated to the picture above but this photo caught my eye, I was going to go past the thumbnail without any more thought but then I noticed the title i_wear_my_sunglasses_at_night_by_whitewhitewine.jpg. I clicked. I did because the title and the connotations of the song it referred to helped validate and perhaps make more sense of the image the title had been reappropriated for. I think this is pretty interesting and I know it's probably one of the big debates in art about titles, but I'm still enjoying the novelty of it right now. As Mike said, "I think it's called anchorage", The image was anchored by the song and all that I associated with it to create a much richer overall 'experience' of the photo. Hella Words & Pictures.

Fascinating and moving.

malibu "The government and Daily Mail won't shut the fuck up about the perils of binge-drinking and the harmful effects of alcohol.

But this girl died after injecting neat Malibu into her eyeball, she was vomiting out of her ears just before she passed away, which was pretty fucking freaky, tbh!"


I saw this on flickr while doing research for 'city portraits' at Kin. I found the image and the text legend very compelling and interesting. I don't want this post to be seen as disrespectful in any way- it's not a lol. I think on a story telling level it's fascinating, and even stuff like starting to question the truth of the image or the attached text. I think it's interesting how the two combine to give a very convincing and sad story. Separately they can be dismissed but when presented together they seem to help validate each other. I think Words and Pictures magazine can learn something from this kind of presentation. I also think it's interesting that it was created and displayed within the flickr context- my thought process makes me think of the potential for government info type films and subsequently (and away from the morbid content of this particular 'story') advertising.