Souvenirs and Trophies

Lecture and work presentation by Mark Dion (New York)
June 19th, 2003

The American artist Mark Dion has been working for more than 10 years on the cultural representation of nature and is internationally regarded as one of the most important representatives of context art. This year, for the first time, a large, retrospective traveling exhibition will be dedicated to the artist in Germany (Villa Merkel, Esslingen; Bonner Kunstverein; Kunstverein Hannover).

In the realization of his works, the artist uses procedures from science and archaeology: he collects, archives, orders, compares. For all their apparent proximity to scientific discourse, Mark Dion’s installations and ensembles of found objects, specimens, equipment, and scientific literature, some of which are humorous and some of which are cryptic, are not natural history collections or part of natural history museums, but rather ironic-allegorical reflections on concepts of order and collection in these memory apparatuses of collective knowledge. At the core, the artist always asks how we conceive an idea of nature in the first place. In Dion’s view, taxonomic systems of order with which we make natural processes explainable say something about social and political ideologies rather than about nature itself. Dion’s installations are based on critical investigations of the environment and ecology (“Concrete Jungle,” 1992), the history of science (“Scala Naturae,” 1994), the laboratory and research (“Frankenstein in the Age of Biotechnology,” 1993, “The N.Y. State Bureau of Tropical Conservation,” 1992) and cultural institutions such as the Museum of Natural History (“A Tale of Two Seas: An Account of Stephan Dillemuth’s and Mark Dion’s Journey Along the Shores of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and What They Found There,” 1996).

In his lecture for the University of Lüneburg, Mark Dion will give an overview of his work to date and explain his theoretical concept. Afterwards, a joint discussion with the participants is planned.