Critics’ Picks

View of “Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing”, 2013.


“Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing”

Turner Contemporary
Rendezvous, Margate
May 25 - September 15

Curated by Brian Dillon, writer and UK editor of Cabinet magazine, “Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing” is inspired by the notion of the wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities—perhaps a conceptual precursor of the museum. In the spirit of the magazine’s sense of wonder, the exhibition is an exploration, through collections of objects, of the impulse to discover and make sense of the world.

Dillon has idiosyncratically brought together a range of works, which has its basis in deepening our understanding of the world, from knowledge garnered through observation (e.g., Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of clouds, anatomy, and emblems) to more indexical forms of information gathering (e.g., Rolodexes in the Center for Land Use Interpretation’s collection, which contain business cards of suppliers to the nuclear industry). However it is Matt Mullican’s Psycho Architecture, 2001–2004, a two-channel video of himself under hypnosis closely examining everything in his studio, that best exemplifies the instinct Dillon is considering. One channel follows the artist moving around his studio––in a near slapstick manner––studying its contents at nose range, while the other is filmed through Mullican’s point of view. Though this demonstrates the trait of intense scrutiny that curiosity may elicit, it does not provide any fruitful interpretation. Jimmie Durham’s Marquette for a Museum of Switzerland, 2011, however, contains found objects in vitrines accompanied by his deadpan texts that mimic a sort of cultural anthropology—he makes an analysis of the cultural situation at hand, but his style has a folky quality. Durham’s view of, in this case, Swiss culture clearly demonstrates the human desire to understand and rationalize the world that confronts us.