I think one of the most bizarre museum practices is the act of marking museum artefacts with an accession number. Like the tattoos of gang members, it is a permanent symbol which marks their lifelong membership in a collective from which they can never again be completely separate.
The most common tattoo among gangsters of all nationalities is one that denotes the gang that they are in. This is seen as the mark of lifelong membership. The gang ethos of “blood in, blood out”–the idea that the prospective member must kill someone as the price of admission to the gang and cannot leave except by dying himself–is embodied in the tattoo as a sign of permanent belonging to the gang.
Agnes Richter was a German seamstress held as a patient in an insane asylum during the 1890s. During her time there, she densely embroidered her straitjacket with words, undecipherable phrases and drawings which documented her thoughts and feelings throughout her time there. This remarkable object was collected by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist who ardently collected the artwork of his patients at a Heidelberg psychiatric hospital in the early 20th century. Continue reading
I am more curious about the elements that, by being so widespread, are usually for that very reason shielded from view. The voices of dust, the soul of dust, these interest me a lot more than flowers, trees or horses because I take them to be stranger. -Jean Debuffet
Another artist enamoured with dust is British sculptor Cornelia Parker, perhaps best known for her 1991 work Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, or her 1997 Turner Prize nomination. Her 1997 piece “The Negative of Whispers”, for example, is a set of earplugs crafted from dust collected in the Whispering Gallery of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Continue reading