A Field Guide to Curiosity: A Mark Dion Project

'A Field Guide to Curiosity: A Mark Dion Project' is the result of Mark Dion's collaboration with the V&A as resident artist in the context of the V&A Research Institute's project 'Opening the Cabinet of Curiosities', generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

A world-renowned American conceptual artist, Dion lives and works in New York and Pennsylvania. Over the past decades, his work has been shown nationally and internationally, including at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and London's Tate Modern and Whitechapel Gallery. Recent exhibitions include Phantoms of the Clark Expedition, at The Explorers Club in New York City; Mark Dion: Troubleshooting at the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum; and Den, a site-specific installation for the National Tourist Routes in Norway.

A self-described 'lover of things', Mark has long been fascinated by the idea of the collection and by the peculiar and wonderful taxonomies of objects and their display offered by the Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities. In 1999, Dion and a team of local volunteers combed the shore of the Thames for objects and fragments, which were then presented in a mahogany cabinet as part of Tate Modern's pre-opening programme. In 2012, he completed an installation in the Brody Learning Commons at John Hopkins University for An Archaeology of Knowledge, a Wunderkammer, which comprised a vast laboratory cabinet housing over 700 objects from ancient Roman inscriptions to glass pipettes and a vintage university library card. Expanding this approach further, for his Theatre of the Natural World at the Whitechapel Gallery in London (2018), Mark burrowed through rainforests and rubbish dumps to highlight the wonder and fragility of life on earth.

A collaboration between Mark Dion, project Co-Lead, Dr Lisa Skogh, and Scholarly Advisor, Dr Earle Havens, this 'Field Guide to Curiosity' makes an artistic and critical contribution to a constantly expanding field of scholarship about the history of cabinets of curiosities. Along the way, it brings us back to the historical collaborations of the arts and sciences of which the V&A's collections are a remarkable product. This digital production of the Field Guide invites audiences worldwide to delve inside Mark Dion's work and to discover the contributions of a scintillating group of early modern historians of art and science and contemporary artists.

Background image: The Phantom Museum. © Mark Dion