collecting


More and more the mnemonic function of the museum is given over to the electronic archive, which might be accessed anywhere, while the visual experience is given over not only to the exhibition-form but to the museum-building as spectacle – that is, as an image to be circulated in the media in the service of brand equity and cultural capital. This image may be the primary form of public art today.

– Hal Foster. Design and Crime (And Other Diatribes). New York: Verso, 2002: p. 82.

… the phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner. Even though public collections may be less objectionable socially and more useful academically than private collections, the objects get their due only in the latter. I do know that the time is running out for the type that I am discussing here and have been representing before you a bit ex officio. But, as Hegel put it, only when it is dark does the owl of Minerva begin its flight. Only in extinction is the collector comprehended.

– Walter Benjamin. “Unpacking My Library.” In Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968: 67.

Property and possessions belong to the tactical sphere. Collectors are people with a tactical instinct; their experience teaches them that when they capture a strange city, the smallest antique shop can be a fortress, the most remote stationery a key position. How many cities have revealed themselves to me in the marches I undertook in the pursuit of books!

– Walter Benjamin. “Unpacking My Library.” In Illuminations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968: 63.

… whenever thought for a time runs along an accepted groove—there is an opportunity for the machine …

– Vannevar Bush. “As We May Think.” Atlantic Monthly (1945).  (Last accessed June 10, 2009.)

… consuming is no joke, well-wishing and helpful, the whole of society is with you, and considerate into the bargain, for it thinks of you, personally, it prepares for you specially pesonalized items; or better still, these items are delivered to your personalizing free will to be used at your leisure: this armchair, these assembled elements, this bed-linen, this underwear; this and not that. We had misjudged society; all of us; it is maternal and fraternal; our visible family is duplicated by this invisible one, better and especially more efficient, the society of consumption that showers its consideration and protective charms on everybody. Who can be ungrateful enough to be uneasy?

The swivels turn at ground level. Consuming of displays, displays of consuming, consuming of displays of consuming, consuming of signs and signs of consuming; each sub-system, as it tries to close the circuit, gives another self-destructive twist, at the level of everyday life.

– Henri Lefebvre. Everyday Life in the Modern World. New York: Harper & Row, 1971: 108-109.

[Oedipal stories are] very powerful cannibalizers because they’re very good stories…. At a certain point you ask if there isn’t another set of stories you need to tell, another account of an unconscious. One that does a better job accounting for the subjects of history.

– Donna Haraway in Penley, Constance, Ross, Andrew, and Haraway, Donna. “Cyborgs At Large: Interview With Donna Haraway.” Social Text (1990): 14-15.

Description on back of a postcard of “Plaza in China City, Los Angeles” circa 1930: “Interesting shops displaying everything from genuine Chinese art to curios and firecrackers, and numerous restaurants serving delicately flavored Chinese food, attract throngs of visitors to China City, in Los Angeles.” Found in the Hagley Library Postcards of Motels and Roadside Attractions Collection.

Dear Blind Man –

You are, I hope, to be an instrument for the accomplishment of an important an much-needed  work in America: namely, the fostering and encouragement of a truly native art. An art which will be at once the result of a highly vitalized age, of a restless artistic spirit, and of a sudden realization — on the part of our artists — of America’s high destiny in the future of the world. Such an art must very closely embody the spirit of our time, however morbid, however hurried, however nerve-racking that time may be….

So, if you can help stimulate and develop an American art which shall truly represent our age, even if the age is one of telephones, submarines, aeroplanes, cabarets, cocktails, taxicabs, divorce courts, wars, tangos, dollar signs; or one of desperate strivings after new sensations and experiences you will have done well. The future dwellers of the earth will then be able to look back with truth and conviction, and, say: “Yes, they had an art, back in New York, in the days following the Great War, an art that was a vitalized part of their life.’”

– Frank Crowninshield. “From a Friend.” April 27, 1917. The Blind Man, No. 2, p. 10.

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