This work addresses issues of exclusivity, value, wealth vs poverty, ownership, lack of access vs accessibility, privilege and status.
The original Wunderkammern were limited to those who could afford them, and thus were markers of privilege, status and exclusivity. Those who collected the ‘curious’ and fantastical objects were wealthy rulers, aristocrats and merchants – with the means and time to undertake expensive journeys and travel trade routes. The objects collected were exclusive, special and rare, and therefore expensive. Museums have become the modern cabinets of curiosities – where the ‘populace’ is admitted (at a price) and allowed to peer through glass at exclusive objects (but not to touch). Judgement is passed not only on the value of objects, but also on the status of the viewer.
I would argue that the curious detritus of modern industrial and technological society are no less fantastical and worthy of our attention and scrutiny. Anyone can build such a collection – the objects are available to anyone for free, and no expensive journeys are necessary.
A Hoi Polloi Cabinet of Curiosities is totally accessible to the viewer, who may touch the objects. If the viewer so wishes, he or she may also remove a card with an object and take ownership.
At the end of the exhibition, 22 object cards had been removed: