In the eighteenth century, treasure hunters traveled to Pompeii and ripped priceless objects from the site, selling them for a tidy profit to wealthy collectors. The Delle Antichita di Ercolano, a luxurious, limited-edition catalog, showcased these objects individually and set against black backgrounds in efforts to rid traces of its original context. At the same time, precious and exotic objects were being cultivated by European elite and showcased in privately owned curiosity cabinets. All manner of things came together in these little museums: paintings, skeletons, horns, shells, preserved animals, plants. The earliest collections were thought to encourage comparisons. They found analogies and parallels that encouraged a shift to a more culturally dynamic world.
Rich and well-traveled patrons imposed hierarchies within these collections, however, providing an illusory sense of control and containment of the world. Categories were social constructions but viewed as naturally determined and intrinsic to the physical world. These collections established a canon, a standard by which all was evaluated, offering a single, authoritative interpretation of the world and all things in it.
Since we are constantly inundated with images of the other via the television and the Internet, does that encourage us to connect and relate? Or is my computer just a digital curio cabinet, a vehicle through which I categorize the world that repeats the act of the 18th century collector? The digital destructuring and intentional immersion of scanned organic forms in this work visually provokes this question and subverts the practice. By using the spare aesthetic of Delle Antichita di Ercolano, I pose questions about the importance of context: by washing it away and universalizing these digital objects, does it make the appropriation of culture more comfortable?
Bio and contact:
Katie Maish was born in Memphis, Tennessee, where she continues to live and work. She received a bachelor of science degree in biology from Rhodes College as well as an MFA in photography and a graduate certificate in museum studies from the University of Memphis. Her work focuses on the representation of culture in virtual, artificial and hyperreal environments and the pitfalls associated with the symbolic displacement of culture. Currently she serves as the arts administrator for Memphis Social, an ambitious and unique exhibition sponsored by apexart showcasing 60 local, national and international artists at 16 sites in Memphis.
Katie Maish is a Memphis, TN, based photographer.
To view more of her work, please visit her website: katiemaish.com
You can also contact her by e-mail: email@example.com