Often shall you meet in Paris some Pons, some Elie Magus, dressed badly enough, with his face turned from the rising sun … apparently heeding nothing, conscious of nothing, paying no attention to shop-windows nor to fair passers-by, walking at random, so to speak, with nothing in his pockets, and to all appearance an equally empty head. Do you ask to what Parisian tribe this manner of man belongs? He is a collector, a millionaire, one of the most impassioned souls upon earth.
This is how Balzac describes the protagonist of his novel “Le Cousin Pons”.
(a collective assemblage by amt_project)
February 24th – March 17th, 2012
Artists: Cyril Blažo | Radu Comșa | David Raymond Conroy | Petra Feriancová | Vladimír Havlík | Václav Stratil | Martin Vongrej
Every collection is the result of an effort to create a certain kind of system, a system that I would perhaps best describe as unique, because it is very much affected by the subjectivity of the self and by the choices made by the collector - an individual.
Walter Benjamin calls this system “a historical system”: “While trying to endeavor a certain kind of completeness, collecting strives to overcome plain irrationality of the existence of an object by classifying it into a new historical system - a collection - created for this sole purpose.”
Benjamin does not dismiss the subjective origin by calling the system “historical”, rather he acknowledges the subjectivity of the individual, who is able to build up a collection and is thus able to create history. The basic characteristic of a collection is the formation of a theme for its own time. Meaning that a collection, by itself, creates its own time as well as a new, previously mentioned, subjective structure of history. History by default is defined as a structure of events and their consequences – a retrospective.
A collector begins to create his collection, whose formation starts to have a meaning only once it has been repetitively enacted. Repetition, or the need to reiterate, is a psychological moment. I would like to compare the characteristic of this moment to Søren Kierkegaard’s meaning of repetition. With repetition one develops a certain kind of certainty, thus the feeling of insecurity, fear and anxiety caused by the unknown subsides to a certain extent. Repetition can also lead to recalling moments, reminiscing, an attempt to stop the time.
The initiation and the categorization of a collection happens over time, retrospectively. The classification of “the initiation or the beginning” is given later, after the fact. The theorist Mieke Bal identifies the beginning of collecting as an initial blindness – an absence of seeing – which is essential for the sake of the process. She sets this theory on the example of her friend: “Collecting reaches its purpose when the outcome of a shopping spree becomes a meaningful series. That is the moment when a confident narrator begins to ‘narrate’ her or his story, setting semiotics for the story of identity, history and circumstance.”
If we identify ourselves with this theory of story narration, we should also ask for the motivation or the incentive that drives the collector to “continue his recounting”. The answer to this can be Pearce’s definition, in which she appears to summarize the abovementioned need to collect, and the necessity to project one’s own story, one’s own personal history.
“The potential spirituality of objects is one of its most intense characteristic, although it can be vague and perhaps inapprehensible. Objects float in our imagination, constantly embodying ourselves and expressing our life stories.”
Pearce suggests that the desire to collect is an indispensable need, an urgency that is our own. She then names sixteen different possibilities for motivation, out of which only one is universal and particular to each and every one of us, regardless of our cultural background or economic status. It is the desire for immortality. This longing for eternal life is something I consider to be the most essential enticement, and an impetus that leads us to create. To create a collection, but also to create generally.
photographs by Zoltán Gábri