The death of curiosity

We’re entering an era when the luxury of looking, collecting, curating and arranging is becoming an antiquated occupation. Glancing through the richly illustrated pages of Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing (we haven’t visited the accompanying exhibition yet) and you get a strong sense of a historical project, the framing of objects by time. That’s what collecting used to be; acquisition over time, not an instant accumulation of stuff. Curiosity is a Cabinet Project, and it translates that fabulous publication’s spirit into contemporary art, presenting practitioners who have been able to ‘return to the intellectual and aesthetic freedom that emerged in seventeenth century art and science’.

Compare and contrast with other emerging trends such as the ‘era of constant photography‘. ‘I suspect that in 5-10 years, photography will largely involve pointing video cameras at things and finding the best images in the editing phase.’ For the future future historian, perhaps this deluge will create an invaluable and inviolable record of the past. At the same time, the archivist will become a sort of filter, able to strain and isolate key moments from the stream. Will there be more potential for confusion, or less? 50 Unexplainable black and white photographs or the unexplained and unknown will fade from the memory as the lost memories that made them special are encoded and stored, somewhere.

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