This page is a documentation of all the research I am conducting in order to support the purpose and my investigation into my final major project, including internet research, books, journals, archives, museum visits, gallery exhibitions and documentaries etc.
Artist Turns Old Keys Into Recycled Art
Moerkey is an Australian artist who turns discarded keys, coins and bottle caps into beautiful pieces of art such as decorative bowls, bottles, lampshades and other intricate recycled metal sculptures. It all began when he was cleaning out his shed and came across some old copper piping saved from a renovation, which he then started to cut up into rings and turn into spheres.
“I’m a bit of a hoarder and searched around for all those old keys and copper wire, that were no longer needed, and got creative with them as well” http://www.boredpanda.com/recycled-metal-sculptures-key-coin-michael-moerkey/
Like the artists featured in the Trash To Treasure exhibit, Moerky is a great example of how hoarded and collected items of little to no value, with some creativity can be turned into inventive and beautiful new products, completely changing the purpose and function of the original state. Going back to my brief, this example suggests how hoarding is a positive thing, when it can be used and turned into something new and productive.
Texas based photographer Emily Blincoe, is fascinated by the idea of how a collection can be displayed or stored. To some serious collectors, the way in which the collection is presented is just as important as the collection itself. This comes under our cognitive thinking and why as humans we prefer and choose specific ways of doing things psychologically. Blincoe shows this in her work through the use of colour organisation.
She conveys how there is something satisfying about a spectrum of colour; it is easy to get absorbed into something or want to buy more than one of a product when there’s a rainbow of colour in front of you. http://creativesafari.com/collections-emily-blincoe/
Stocking the Shelves with Random Objects
Similarly to the likes of Emily Blincoe who’s work I discussed previously, one of Ceal Floyer’s “Helix” series also explores the way in which objects can be arranged. There is a systematical method to the placing of Floyer’s objects, however it is not obviously like the system of colour. What looks like a shelf of randomly arranged, unrelated packaged items is actually a strictly organized artwork.
She begins with a plastic template which has a series of different sized holes cut through it, a tool for drawing circles, designed by the company ‘Helix’. Each circle is then filled with an object that fits the circle exactly, including toothpaste tubes, pritt stick, batteries and candles.
Ceal doesn’t like to give much away in terms of the method behind the organisation of the objects, but still a connection can be made as she uses identifiable items that most of us can relate to in some way. However a few things included are a little more difficult to identify with, but these are used to represent the small items that can easily be left behind or forgotten in the bottom of drawers or stored away in shoeboxes, reflecting those little things that we fail to throw away. http://beachpackagingdesign.com/boxvox/stocking-the-shelves-with-random-objects
Souvenier fridge magnets, art, vintage cars, Rachel Halliwell discovers that we like to amass ‘things’ because they form an important part of our legacy. While the rich and famous fill their homes with great works of art an collections of expensive cars, us lesser humans are content with more humble collections of objects that stir up something that might be of lesser value in a material sense but give just as much pleasure.
Rachel Halliwell asks: But why do we like to collect “things”? Why should inanimate objects be able to satisfy us on an emotional level, eventually becoming so important to us that we begin to think about the possibility of our collections enduring after we have gone?
According to psychologist Dr Rebecca Spelman, our fascination with collecting objects starts at an early age in childhood. For example, a comfort blanket or cuddly toy teaches us that it is possible to have an emotional bond with something lifeless and inert. And so a positive relationship with the idea of holding on to and amassing material things is formed. As I child, I myself would carry around one of the Care Bears and a little pillow both made my by Granny, which I couldn’t go anywhere without. And on multiple occasions I would lose them, resulting in another having to be made to replace it. In my life that is a clear example of attachment to an inanimate object on an emotional level, particularly with the sentimental factors that the originals were made by my Grandmother.
When we get older this then develops into collecting things such as shells from the beach or figurines of favourite film characters, because we feel the need to take ownership of things that no longer just provide comfort, the act of collecting then becomes pleasurable in itself. The values of these things is irrelevant to us, although some people do collect things that they know will increase in value as an investment. But for the majority, collecting is not for investment purposes, it is an emotionally driven act, often with people collecting objects that they connect to positively and emotionally with, that reflect particular times in their lives.
“By amassing similar items with the same theme, to which there is a pleasurable association, can bring an emotion from the past very much into the present.” Dr Spelman
A collection is also a part of ourselves that we can leave behind once we are gone, a legacy that we feel is precious, not because of its material value but because these objects have become an extension of who we are. But for others collecting is all about the thrill of the chase in finding a new addition. Hours spent searching for another item can become a hugely enjoyable experience from applying thoughts and energy into tracking items down. The pleasure seeking sensors in the brain light up and then this experience is wanted to be had again and so a new search begins. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/finance/personal-economy/11182739/why-do-we-collect-things.html
Everything Is Illuminated
2005, directed by Liev Schreiber. A young Jewish American flies to Ukraine in search of his grandfather’s past and the events he lived during WW2. He has a photograph and the name of a village. He hires Odessa Heritage Tours, made up of a gruff old man and his English-speaking grandson. The three, plus grandfather’s deranged dog, travel in an old car from Odessa into Ukraine’s heart. Jonathan, the American, is a collector, putting things he finds into small plastic bags, so he will remember. Alex, the interpreter, is an archetypal wild and crazy guy. Alex asks the old man, “Was there anti-Semitism in the Ukraine before the war?” Will they find the village? The past illuminates everything.
Media and Nostalgia
Today nostalgia is known as a personal attachment to the past, or rather to a version of the past. Most individuals experience nostalgia to some degree, a longing for past childhood, family home, country or origin. But when used for commercial purses it is an entirely sentimental construction of the past. Within the media it is an extremely lucrative construction of the past. For instance certain radio stations solely play music from only certain time periods, and an individual may have an emotional attachment to this music of their youth.
“This commercial radio formatting freezes the flow of pop music into a museumised version of the past, selling the loyal listeners to advertisers. This form of commercial nostalgia sells and promotes the past as commodity.” (Niemeyer, K (2014). Media and Nostalgia: Yearning for the Past, Present and Future. Palgrave Macmillan. 216)
Similarly, period TV series like Downton Abbey construct a glamorised version of a historical period, which can trigger new visions in retro fashion or a fondness for earlier trends. The past is portrayed as very grand and exotic in these sorts of period reconstructions, in which art design plays a leading role in evoking the correct aesthetic of specific historical periods and cultures. Of course most viewers who watch this sort of program today, will not have experienced the early 1900’s so for them these reconstructions represent nostalgia for a time and place unknown. There is always a popularity for televisual nostalgia indicating a fondness for looking back at past worlds, however these visions may be exaggerated and not an accurate reflection of those times.
Drawn To Nostalgia
Drawn To Nostalgia is an exhibition by Jacqueline Ong, that records first hand the treats of Ong’s childhood memories. In this day and age life is very hectic, between work, family life and everything else that people have to deal with, which is exactly what caused Ong to want to take a step back from it all and help to remind us all of what happiness is. If the time is taken to appreciate them, it can be the simplest of things that make us happy. She explains: “One day, I uncovered two tin cans in my room and found little toys within. Instantly, these neglected treasures resurrected my childlike spirit to create again.”
The little toys and drawings Ong has put together talk stories of the past, and presented in a space together people are able to relate to these objects and drawings and an opportunity will arise where individual childhood memories will collide. As memories return, Ong explains that a warm fuzzy feeling radiates inside of you, a shared moment of play and innocence. http://www.jacquelineong.com
What is Oxfam Shelflife?
Oxfam shelflife was an event that took place in a selection of Oxfam stores based in Manchester, with the intentions to discover the stories behind items you find in the charity shops and share your own experiences through items donated to Oxfam.
I always wonder where donated items originally came from, who owned them before and why, and even why have they been donated and parted with the owner. Shelf Life cleverly uses the aid of smartphone technology being able to scan a barcode attached to the objects. Once the barcode is scanned an audio plays telling you all about the story behind the objects past. However not all the stories are always heartwarming ones, sometimes items are donated because the owner wishes to part with them and leave the story behind, erasing that moment in time from their life.
“I think the teddy bear is great. Everyone’s got a teddy bear, haven’t they? And a teddy bear has been there with them, through nightmares at night and through tears and through love. It’s quite a powerful object and once you hear someone’s voice as though they were a ghost, it evokes such powerful memories. I think it gives the objects more of a depth and a rich feeling.” Chris Speed
One Man’s Trash, an Article From The New York Times
Working with a patient he calls Debra, a compulsive hoarder, the psychologist Randy O. Frost carried out a simple experiment. Frost sent Debra a postcard, blank apart from the name and address. Debra’s assignment was to throw it away. Days later, Debra complained that she had not had enough time with the card. She described the stamp and the postmark. When she finally let go, she pictured the card’s position in the trash. Later, she confessed she had cheated by writing down everything about the card she could remember and then saving the notes. So why couldn’t she bare to throw it away?
In the book “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things,” Frost and Gail Steketee inform us on topics that might make some squirm. They have spent nearly 20 years working with hoarders, where tunnels lead through trash and roaches roam freely. Frost and Steketee introduce collectors who acquire through shopping, Dumpster diving and stealing.
People justify hoarding as curating and recycling, often using the excuse that it may come in useful later on. And sometimes they act like history is at stake, they want to preserve the past. Andy Warhol, straddling the border between eccentricity and pathology, would periodically sweep everything from cash, artwork to apple cores off his desk and into a cardboard box. He stored hundreds of these “time capsules.”
In extreme cases of hoarding it can be difficult for the family of the hoarder to understand. This consequently can cause the relationships to become strained and in some cases drive them away. Past experts have depicted sufferers as isolated and paranoid, deprived in childhood and now unable to discard worthless junk even when it bears no sentimental value. Hoarding has been linked to obsessive compulsive disorder and its variants. But studies show that the genetics of hoarding differ from the genetics of obsessing. And while obsessionality is painful, enjoyment can be found in acquiring and revisiting old belongings. It is this pleasure in objects that distinguishes hoarding, in Frost and Steketee’s view. They suggest that hoarders may “inherit an intense perceptual sensitivity to visual details,” and speculate about “a special form of creativity and an appreciation for the aesthetics of everyday things.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/books/review/Kramer-t.html?_r=1
Hoarding as Art? Artist Exhibits 10,000 Items Collected By His Mom
In an immense collection, the Chinese artist Song Dong, has created from what once cluttered his mothers life, to what is now known as ‘Waste Not’. The exhibit assembles more than 10,000 items that his mother hoarded for a period of over five decades. The hoard of objects began increasing after the death of Dong’s father, which his mother found difficult to deal with. Dong explained that after this particular moment in life, his mother could never bring herself to throw anything away. It was as if she had found comfort in her surroundings and therefore couldn’t bear to part with anything, seeming as though this was her attempt “to fill the emptiness”. In an effort to help his mother find a new purpose, and rebuild some structure to her life, Dong suggested that they work together to turn her possessions into a work of art, and a chance for them to revisit such a vast collection of objects and memories.
Dong’s mother, Zhao Xiangyan, lived during the Cultural Revolution in China, a time when many people were poor and had to keep anything they could. It was a requirement for survival during periods of social and political turmoil. For many though, conserving objects is still a virtue in China, largely amongst the older generation who experience the cultural revolution. “In an economy that has hit our incomes as hard as it’s shaken our confidence, the impulse to save things (and repair rather than replace) isn’t just a cost saving measure, or an environmentally correct thing to do.” And like Xiangyan’s experience, ‘Waste Not’ is not just a testament to her struggle with the loss of her husband, it is also an artful, temporary museum of all those little things that we tend to take for granted and forget about and very often abandon. It is also a fascinating reflection on an average Chinese lifestyle, as well as elevating the message as a reminder of the role art and museums play in glorifying the everyday, of the contrived Western relationship with cheap objects made in China. Waste Not is a Chinese proverb ‘wu jin qi yong’; meaning nothing must be wasted, everything can be reused, which is exactly how Dong’s mother lived, always considering how she lived through the Cultural Revolution, and how to preserve necessities. A great, and moving example of this was the particularly poignant story of the collection of soap. Soap was a precious thing during the Cultural Revolution and consequently was rationed severely. After that time though, she still continued to collect soap, even the little left over pieces, all because she did not want her son to be without. “Hoarding is often considered a compulsive disorder in developed countries. But Song’s exhibit reminds us that places like China, where economic want is either a fresh memory or a current condition for many, conserving objects is still a virtue.”
Interestingly the show was received in different ways in different cities. It was first shown in Beijing in 2005, where people could relate to it’s story and recognize the objects as being parts of their lives also, since during the Cultural Revolution everyone owned the same things and had the same lives. Even in Europe people could connect with the displays, as there were hardships during the war, therefore people had an understanding with the need to keep things as a way of living. Whereas in New York, it was seen more as an art installation, but ultimately ‘Waste Not’ speaks about strong family connections and the power of objects that have the ability to tell stories and shape our lives. “Nostalgia tantalizes us with its fundamental ambivalence; it is about the repetition of the unrepeatable, materialization of the immaterial. Nostalgia is the repetition that mourns the inauthenticity of all repetitions and denies the repetitions capacity to define identity.” (S. Boym (2001), The Future of Nostalgia, New York: Basic Books, 12)
This Guy Turns OCD Hoarding Into Amazing Photos
Portland based photographer Jim Golden is described as an extreme collector, in fact often classed as a hoarder. Golden had been hoarding and arranging objects based on the aspect of nostalgia and as a way of displaying what once was classed as modern inventions, with collections including Atari joysticks, VHS tapes and typewriters. As a way of displaying the past and relics of a simpler time, Golden created a series of well thought out photographs featuring arrangements of categorically similar, old objects, neatly ordered and perfectly spaced apart. “Though filled with dozens of subjects, each photo has an emotional core—the camping collection was inspired by a plastic flashlight Golden had as a kid and recently rediscovered at a thrift store.”
As a collection, the photographs are of a minimalist style, simply taking into account light and the positioning of the objects but are the result of Golden’s obsessive pursuit of perfection. To some collectors the display is just as important as the collection itself, they feel a sense of pride in what they have achieved over a period of time. Organisation is something we feel makes our lives easier, less stressed. And to some obsessed with organisation seeing neat rows, or items organized in terms or features such as size, colour or shape, they become filled with a sense of calm and pleasure. Categorization is the process in which ideas and objects are recognized, differentiated, and understood and it implies that objects are usually grouped into categories for a specific purpose. Ideally, a category highlights a link between the subjects and objects. Categorization is also an essential factor in language, prediction, inference, decision making and in many different ways of environmental interaction. The brain is a very clever organ that uses cognition in order to determine how to categorize objects, which are then delivered to different parts of the brain due to the categorization to then process the information that is being seen. In science, cognition is a set of all mental abilities and processes related to knowledge, including attention, memory, judgment and evaluation, reasoning, calculation problem solving and decision making, understanding and construction of language.
Artists Who Collect
Held at the Andy Warhol Museum, an exhibition was held called Artists Who Collect, featuring one artist in particular who takes into account the categorization of his work, Karsten Bott. He is an individual who has been collecting artifacts in a private collection; he calls ‘The Archive of Contemporary History’, and not only displays his passion for collecting in this exhibit, but also the love for storing, exhibiting and scientifically classifying objects, which all can become evident within the lives of extreme collectors. The process in which Bott determines the placement of objects with companions is an intricate one, involving huge computer databases with categorical headings such as occupations, death or in the bathroom. Although what is clever about Bott’s method of categorization is that once his hundreds of items have been categorized, some even with cross references and links, his items are exhibited with no labels so that the viewer is left to freely associate with the objects, and categorize them themselves, purely based on their own opinions. Therefore, trying to create a link with peoples’ personal histories and how they may have experienced or determined these objects in the past. “I put a structure on the collection of my archive that defines things other than alphabetically. I am humanizing these things. It’s like a giant polka.” http://www.warhol.org/education/resourceslessons/Karsten-Bott/
Britain’s Biggest Hoarders
Psychological factors can play a part in the motivation of keeping a collection and the impact it has on the collectors’ life. For most people, collecting is a choice. They choose to keep a collection as a hobby that goes hand in hand with an interest in the items collected and what they represent to the owner. For example the collection of stamps and coins may express an interest in travelling, different places and cultures, for which this reason collecting has educational benefits and the collector may become an expert in their field.
However for others, collecting is not a choice, but a compulsion. This can lead to a means of withdrawing themselves from the world, and avoiding all human contact as opposed to keeping a collection being a positive aspect counteracting the stress of life and providing a purposeful pursuit that prevents boredom.
There are two main types of hoarding, the less serious being human hoarding, usually in an attempt to preserve and create a supply of essential items such as food, water, clothes and tools, incase of natural disasters or political aspects such as war and rationing. In this case, hoarding is in order to survive. Whereas compulsive hoarding lies at the complete opposite end of the collecting spectrum. Some cases of hoarding in humans can be a form of anxiety disorder such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), where the importance perceived by the hoarder, of the hoarded items, far exceeds their true value. In some cases people are known to lose all sense of being able to throw away unneeded items because of a feeling of attachment. “Whilst Alan feels everything is useful and will only let perished items go, Richard sees that much of what he holds onto is rubbish but still struggles to part with anything.”
Photographs document the life of a hoarder with smiles and sadness, It’s Nice That
A compulsive hoarder George Fowler, became the central focal point for a collection of photographs by Corrina Kern as a documentation of the life of a hoarder, called George’s World. A hoarding disorder is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by the extreme acquirement of and inability or unwillingness to discard of large quantities of materials that can end up covering the main living areas of the home, consequently causing significant distress and weakness. Through her documentation photography, Kern explores alternative and non-conformist lifestyles of individuals living on the borders of society. “I came to understand the human nature that lies beneath his unusual condition.” (2014, C. Kern.
The primary subject of Kern’s series of photographs is George’s bath. Instead of focusing on his home as a whole, recording the extreme state of his severely cluttered home, her focus is in one room, and on one particular subject, the bathtub. By focusing on a single location inside George’s four bedroomed house, the project detaches him from his condition and the clutter through which is usually conveyed. As one of the only accessible places in George’s home, his bath has become a multipurpose space. It has become a place where he washes the dishes, does his laundry, stores items, where he has his coffee, reads books or, essentially takes a bath. What drew in Kern’s attention to focus on the bath was the fact that over the two months that she had lived in George’s home, she noticed that the bathtub was the only place in the house where constant changes were occurring, frequently at an hourly basis, while the rest of his house remained dormant under the uncountable hoarded clutter.
The Collyer Brothers
Collecting and hoarding may seem similar, however there are features between hoarders and collectors that set them apart from each other very distinctively. Collecting involves the continuous search for specific objects that form an interest to the collector; therefore they have reason for collecting. Whereas, in contrast, hoarding is chaotic and involves items that are not particularly meaningful to the person hoarding them. Where hoarders tend to keep hold of objects that hold no true meaning or value to them, their homes become extremely disorganized leaving them in a hectic state. In comparison to this, most collectors store their items systematically and may have their collections on display to show their pride in what they have collected.
In extreme cases hoarding has resulted in the end of life. In 1954 the novel ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ was published, written by Marcia Davenport, influenced by the disturbing real life story of the Collyer brothers. The two brothers were discovered under the masses of accumulated belongings they had hoarded over the space of several decades. This case stemmed from the death of the brother’s parents and medical problems Homer Collyer was suffering with, by which after this point they began to seclude themselves from society. As time went on the area in which they lived in Harlem was dealing with the effects of the Great Depression and poverty and crime began to be on the rise, causing another reason for the Collyers to rarely venture outside of their home. They obsessively collected books, furniture, musical instruments, as well as time spent on the set up of booby traps in corridors and doorways to capture any potential intruders. Both were found dead in their home surrounded by over 140 tons of collected items. “Hoarding was strongly associated with obsessive and compulsive symptoms in general and with several related characteristics including indecisiveness and pathological responsibility, as well as with general psychopathology symptoms and distress.”