If Not Here, Then Where?, 2021
Several years ago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art developed a digital archive of their entire collection and made it available to the general public. Since covid hit, I’ve enjoyed perusing the collection. Despite the rich and extensive exhibition history there’s an equal amount of material that has never been shown: anonymous works, love letters, old post cards, cabinet cards, textiles, shards of broken pottery, and ancient jewelry. These objects are given new life online.
The viewing of artworks virtually has its trade-offs though and in response the ways in which I engage with the artwork inherently changes in such a space. Broad searches by date/era, object/material, geographic location, and keyword engage the archive. But unexpected results are common in a place where curation and the canon of discourse is no longer a priority. Objects that have never lived together, make new meaning, outside of time and tradition simply by how they’re filtered.
That’s where “If Not Here, Then Where” begins. I scrape the database of 406,000 public domain images, selecting and printing only artifacts that intrigue me. My personal preferences on composition, color, and aesthetics are what drives what’s printed and what’s left behind. The artifacts cluster together and form delicate mobiles that exist again in tangible form in a world that they can touch and engage with, but they are not what they once were. They’re constructions, fragile and easily disturbed. The artifacts are forever altered: flattened, downsampled, and all relative in size to one another. They’re reliant on the quality of their documentation to survive in their new bodies. Sometimes names, histories, and provenances have been reduced for ease. But what they lack in context and historical grounding they are charged by the newness of proximity to one another.
“If Not Here, Then Where” teeters between worlds. They are artifacts now by another name.