Mark Dion's Wunderkammern

This is one of my favorite art pieces. It combines mucking about in the Thames with scientific processes, systems for collecting, and a presentation taxonomy. Mark Dion created it in preparation for the opening of the Tate Modern in London.

Dion established a methodology for exploration … where to look, for how long, how deep to dig, and what to collect. Volunteers set upon two sites and collected an array of detritus from pottery to bottles to chains to cellphone fragments.

Everything was cleaned, organized and installed in the cabinet of curiosities above. Visitors are encouraged to open drawers and explore the piece themselves. Artifacts and garbage are placed next to each other sorted roughly by type or size, allowing buttons from all eras to live together.

I only wonder if Dion had given it a more unique name, would we see more of these? The piece is titled “Tate Thames Dig,” but that only tells half the story. By naming the process, could this have become more of an invention than a singular art piece?

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