Mark Dion, Xylotheque (detail), 2011–12, wood, glass, electric lighting, porcelain cabinet knobs, wood inlay, plant parts, paper, papier-mache, clay, wax, paint, wire, vellum, leather, plastic, ink, dimensions variable. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

Mark Dion, Xylotheque (detail), 2011–12, wood, glass, electric lighting, porcelain cabinet knobs, wood inlay, plant parts, paper, papier-mache, clay, wax, paint, wire, vellum, leather, plastic, ink, dimensions variable. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

Mark Dion

Mark Dion, Xylotheque (detail), 2011–12, wood, glass, electric lighting, porcelain cabinet knobs, wood inlay, plant parts, paper, papier-mache, clay, wax, paint, wire, vellum, leather, plastic, ink, dimensions variable. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

SINCE THE LATE 1980s, I have been committed to a methodology in which the form and content of what I make are determined by the conditions of the site. Diverse factors ranging from the location’s social history to the present zeitgeist to the project’s budget and the skill level of the people assisting me all have an impact. Frequently, the issues I address require a certain knowledge base, and so sometimes I need to establish a protocol for providing viewers with biographical or historical information about my subject. This can be a text, a handbook, or even a docent. While I have always prioritized the physical installation of my work and feel that the best way to experience it is to share time and space with it— to be in the room surrounded by it, to be affected by its scale—I also care very deeply about the printed materials I produce, and I work with some really great authors, designers, and publishers. I like to have my hand in all aspects of the process and am particularly proud of books such as Travels of William Bartram—Reconsidered, The Marvelous Museum, and Oceanomania. So while I’m very invested in communication, these transmissions tend to take an analog, concrete form. I must confess that I have yet to develop a digital or virtual approach. I don’t even have a website. Probably, this is related to my deep artistic interest in material culture; I am very much a collector of things, and gathering digital data does not feel like satisfying collecting to me. Recently, however, I did begin working with Renaissance scholar Earle Havens and London-based publisher Michael Mack on an e-book project, so it’s entirely possible that my perspective on the digital world may soon change.