Why is stuff like this
so great? (it's a link to a collection of other people’s grocery lists). Perhaps it’s not. Perhaps this fetishisation of the ordinary, coupled with an almost maniacal desire to catalogue, compare and contrast, is just a natural consequence of the web’s inherent ability to ease this kind of behaviour. On-line museums, as we’ve mused before, are repositories for the things that might otherwise be forgotten, the contemporary version of the Victorian cabinet of curiosities, a multi-drawered piece of finely tooled furniture that contains images of everyday detritus.
This particular link - Derek's Big Website of Wal-Mart Purchase Receipts
(yes, we’ve used it before) – is a perfect example, admirable for its thoroughness, frightening for its totality. Ultimately useless? Possibly. Derek’s fails as a valid commentary on consumerism, partly because his purchasing is pretty banal, but mainly because the project now seems overwhelmed by its higher function – its existence on-line (witness how receipts are occasionally signed
by cashiers and/or wellwishers). Although the receipt 'collection' was made possible by the web, it has ultimately been subsumed by it. So does the new-found ability to ‘exhibit’ a collection to a global audience enhance or degrade the collector's curatorial role? An article, Portals of Curiosities
is an interesting angle on just this, complete with useful links.
The on-line collection has also fed back into the off-line. The art director of the New York Times, Peter Buchanan-Smith’s book Speck
(for Princeton Architectural Press
) effectively translates these contemporary obsessions into print, neatly melding the new collectomania of the digital age into the well-established form of the design monograph, usurping the banal posturing that has become so common in recent exponents of the genre. Does Buchanan-Smith’s magazine, the Ganzfeld
deliver a similar approach? (we haven’t seen it).
Perhaps every website is a museum of things.