lecture about collecting in Art and Sciences at the opening of Applied Arts Triennial, Tallinn, Estonia|
The morphology of Art
Collecting can be a way of human enquiry, a way of asking questions and a method of doing research. In early human history collecting food was a way of survival based on the knowledge of edible and poisonous plants.
Focussing on the subject of collecting as a way of enquiry during this lecture we look through the eyes of two different tribes - scientists and artists. Both are collectors: of data, of facts, of objects or even of situations. Do scientists and artists build their collections in different ways and are there similarities in their specific ways of collecting and arriving at answers?
In science data are collected, categorized, analyzed and interpreted in a strict system, i.e. statistics, to clarify questions, form a hypothesis and add to a specific body of knowledge, for example quantum physics or medicine.
How do artists collect material for their visual work in order to set up their research? Do they collect on intuition only or by setting a specific framework or even to get into a special state of mind?
How do both professions make choices about what to keep and what to throw away?
However - in order to build a meaningful collection and to pose valid questions there has to be a background of knowledge or even a system.
In natural sciences morphology, i.e. the study of forms, can be used as a system to organize a collection. Charles Darwin who found the answer to the origin of species was the ultimate collector of forms. He used morphology to organize, categorize and analyze his huge collection of data about the form and structure of organisms in order to arrive at his famous conclusion about the evolution of life on earth. Without a consistently built morphology he would have drowned in data.
How do artists work and build grids or systems for their collections?
Does this comparative view on collecting by artists and scientists, employing the idea of morphology shed new light and insights on the artistic works that were sent for the Tallinn Triennial exhibition about collecting?
august 2012, Monika Auch