Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ernst Haeckel- Art Forms in Nature plates from early 1900's

I am not sure quite why I started this post with the above images (of objects for sale in a little boutique in Tucson, AZ, called Mast).  I have a sort of gut feeling that they somehow relate to the main body of today's post, but need to pick apart the nature of that relationship...  Certainly it has to do with the air of antiquity, popular in many shops and design collections, and the actual antiquity of Haeckel's prints (seen below).  Nostalgia has a powerful draw- and nostalgia for times that precede our own is particularly seductive.  Easier to drift through images of an older time, in which the narrative can be completely fictionalized.   Whereas, a photo album of our own histories may inadvertently trigger not just forgotten canoe rides, hazy summers and dim campfires- but also the discomfort of Uncle So-and-So's violent temper, poison ivy rash on the butt from an ill-considered pee in the woods, and various other embarrassments, mistakes, and small and large deaths.  And so we are drawn to antiques, and old things, where histories can be invented, without the intrusion of truths.  Which is not to say that we do not revise our own memories to suit our needs.... I'm rambling.

I also think that there is a Wunderkammer relationship between these images.  Haeckel, the scientist and artist, worked during a time when the world had gone mad for collecting.  Objects and curiosities from all over the world, oddities and fragments of grotesque aberrations, exotic things displaced into the parlors and cabinets of curious Victorians... the fascination of the antique shop or DIY boutique is not so different.  

And, most interestingly to me, what is a blog if not the most contemporary expression of a Cabinet of Curiosities?  There seems to be a segment of the blogging world that provides tours through personal collections of objects and artifacts in/ for the home- and, more, collections of images of objects and experiences that are desired by the blogger.  It is no longer necessary to actually own the object- to tour the wilds of the New World to bring back unheard-of flora and fauna, to pay vast sums for objects of historical import.  Now, we just have to find the image of the thing on Google, and collect it into our blog-cabinet, and somehow we have a sense of the pleasure of ownership in doing this.  The fascination of collecting is somewhat satisfied, without ever having to purchase, hold, transport, store, or protect the actual object.  We own the thing, while being freed from the ownership of the thing...

I'm still rambling.  On to Ernst Haeckel, artist of the day...

All prints and text taken from the book Ersnst Haeckel; Art Forms in Nature.  2004 Prestel Verlag, Munich, Berlin, London, New York.

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