On Clingfilm, Boundaries, and a Very Odd Danish Man

14 October 2010

 'Musei Wormiani Historia', the frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities.
[object Object]

'Musei Wormiani Historia', the frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum depicting Ole Worm's cabinet of curiosities.

As an almost-graduated MA student in Art History, I have spent a few years focusing my research on display, glass boxes and cabinets of curiosity. Keith Wilson’s exhibition ‘Things‘ embodies my favourite topics in history of art. Thus I have been asked to write a ‘geeky’ and mildly academic entry for today, which is fine, as I happen to be geeky and mildly academic.

In ‘Things’, the aspect that I find incredibly interesting is the boundaries created by Monday- Saturday display boxes. We potentially have access to the objects in the boxes, as the unusual use of clingfilm as a boundary between the audience the the object creates a vulnerable window. One poke and the window is broken. But what would that do? We could steal it, touch it, see it better. However, the creation of a collection and the environment of an exhibition tends to seal every objects in its rightful place with a solid layer of trust and respect, but this time with a tiny pinch of ‘what if?’.

Clingfilm also creates an interesting texture, transparent but slightly cloudy and creased at the same time. We can see the object, but perhaps the description is blurred, or we cannot quite read the handwriting. This lack of regimented typed-up captions and crystal-clear vitrines creates a sense of mystery and discovery, and and a fragile temporary home for sentimental secrets.

Each cube is individual and fascinating. The cubes combined create the calendar,  the wall of transparent cubes; an entire framework for a space made up of other people’s memories, clingfilm, and metal. The combination of the more traditionally displayed Sunday objects and the six-day-week walls really gives you a sense that the room does not only contain objects, but is made of the objects. Now, you can’t talk about quirky collections and cabinets of curiosity without mentioning a certain Dane, Ole Worm.

Born in 1588, his famous collection was one of the first well-known Wunderkammers, or ‘Wonder Rooms’. All along his walls and tables were objects of curiosity from around the world, such as “marvels of nature, antiquities, and ethnographic items, ranging from minerals, fossils, and preserved plants to bones, tusks, tortoise shells, taxidermed animals, and runic texts”. Perhaps our recently acquired elephant’s bezoar would have fit in very nicely there!

Keith has resurrected the concept of the wonder room, except instead of choosing the objects for the collection he has allowed the public to create their own wonder room. In ‘Things’, each box, each life, each object and each person can gazed upon with curiosity and wonder: all from behind a rather thin sheet of clingfilm.