Octogon Cabinet of Confectionary Wonders
Mark Dion & Dana Sherwood
mixed media (display case, taxidermy, stones, shells and silicone molds)
174 × 145 × 145 cm
Inv. No. 0233
Mark Dion with Dana Sherwood
Mark Dion, a marvelous American conceptual artist, has for many years occupied himself with the perception of nature and natural history in society. For Dion, nature is a cultural construction and projection surface for human concepts. He approaches the question of representation from various angles, frequently establishing formal and thematic ties to that historical phase where the subjective system of the cabinet of curiosities gave way to the rationality of the museum. His interests are above all aimed at the scientific methods and classification systems of archaeology, biology, ethnography and ornithology. Mark Dion demonstrates the coequality of nature and culture, of natural exhibits and works of art, in his Octagon Cabinet of Confectionary Wonders, a cooperation with his partner, Dana Sherwood.
The presentation-architecture is an eight-sided display case that, it is presumed, comes from the Viennese Museum of Natural History. The octagon as a symbol for completeness and perfection is the basis for classic constructions like San Vitale in Ravenna, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem or Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Dion distributes zoological specimens preserved in fluid, historical glassware filled with grass snakes and slow-worms, salamanders, lizards, beetles and worms, places a small, preserved shark and a little ape. Four drawers in the base of the display case should contain symbols of the four elements. When one was not able to be opened, Dion was ready with a clever solution: besides water (starfish) and air (butterfly), a piece of pumice represents both earth and fire.
In the octagonal dome of the two-story display case, Dana Sherwood has arranged a wonderful reference to Viennese confectionary. She filled American pudding molds with silicone and arranged the resulting, sparkling “jellies” like a display from the imperial pastry shop Demel.
In the whimsical spirit of Baron Friedrich Ludwig von Berzeviczy-Pallavicini, who staged the shop-windows of both Demel and the New York department store Lord & Taylor, she lets flies and all sorts of small creatures crawl on the jellies, decorative étagères and glass presentation plates, thereby undermining the scientific standards of order, objectivity and universality that Mark Dion imposes – playfully and with humor – one shelf lower. The congenial work oscillates between nature and culture, wilderness and domesticity, between object and display, between the natural and material world.
Brigitte Huck, 2015 (translation: Virginia Dellenbaugh)Continue reading
Small Medium Large. Sculptures and Objects from the evn collection, evn sammlung, Maria Enzersdorf, 2022
Wallpaper #3, evn sammlung, Maria Enzersdorf, 2019
Mark Dion. Die Wunderkammer [published on the occasion of the exhibition “The Great Munich Bug Hunt”, Mark Dion, K-Raum Daxer, Munich, November 6th – Dezember 18th 1993], Munich 1993