Really loved Jen’s visual artefact but I felt that there was something not quite right about the ‘cabinet of curiosities’ metaphor.
Cabinets of curiosities or Wunderkammern are collections of ’strange’ and ‘primitive’ artefacts – some natural, some hand-made - acquired and displayed by mainly wealthy collectors. They belong to a culture of aristocrats, gentlemen or aspiring gentlemen and are also part and parcel of the phenomenon of the grand tour. To be one of the curiosi, is to reveal a fineness of sensibility, an appreciation of the sublime but also an understanding of what’s really art – and what’s just … well … ’strange’ ( a ‘curiosity’). So, I see them as being one of the ways in which a particular class of men distinguished themselves aesthetically, and through this, socially.
Cabinets of curiosities reveal a fascination with the Other – with Otherness in all its forms – but reek of a patronising and superior attittude towards the cultures whose artefacts are collected.
I don’t think Jen’s cabinet did this – I suspect her digital cabinet of curiosities is more informed by surrealism and its reappropriation of the wonder cabinet to articulate an aesthetic based partly on the strange (”the beautiful is always strange”, said Baudelaire) and on bizarre juxtapositions. There’s a nice scene in André Breton’s Nadja (1928) where the narrator describes his trips to the flea market (I think it’s the one at Clignancourt – still open, Métro Porte de Clignancourt): “on the lookout for these objects one cannot find anywhere else, outmoded, fragmented, unusable, almost incomprehensible, ultimately perverse in the way I appreciate it or like it”.
Breton, by the way, had an amazing cabinet of curiosities, bits of which (maybe all, I’m not sure) can be seen in the Pompidou centre.
Anyway, all this to say that I think the cabinet of curiosities/Wunderkammer is not simply a collection of objets trouvés but found objects of a strange, grotesque, and hybrid quality that are always Other.
Maybe commonplace book is a better metaphor?