EARLY IN THE MARK DION RETROSPECTIVE, “The Natural History of the Museum,” at the Carré d’Art Nîmes—Musée d’Art Contemporain, visitors encountered a large tarp spread on the floor, with gear from what appears to be a nature expedition arranged carefully in discrete piles: pickaxes, flippers, gas lanterns, butterfly nets and fishnets, twine and rope, canteens, spades and machetes, floppy hats, forceps and tweezers, work gloves, backpacks, and several huge packing crates. The meticulous organization is nonhierarchical: Here a stack of plastic bags is on equal footing with a pile of printed matter. In foregrounding the physical material, the mediating things that are needed to collect and analyze various kinds of rare specimens, Department of Tropical Research, 2005, resembles several of Dion’s previous installations, including researchers’ workstations such as Desk of the Paleontologist,
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