Monday, March 03, 2008

Mark Dion Lecture at Vanderbilt

This Lecture is one of our favorites of the year so far.

Lecture with Artist Mark Dion

Vanderbilt University
February 27, 2008

Dion’s dynamic and conceptually rigorous art making practice primarily serves as an investigation of the historical methods of representing and organizing the world, with particular sensitivity to man’s sometimes tenuous relationship with nature, society and the environment. Employing scientific conventions of investigation and display in order to deconstruct them, the politics of museum representation has always taken a central role in his practice - and in certain projects the physical act of realizing the work via pseudo scientific or curatorial endeavors.


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Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. He received a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut. Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. The job of the artist, he says, is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between ‘objective’ (‘rational’) scientific methods and ‘subjective’ (‘irrational’) influences. The artist’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkabinetts of the 16th Century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society. He has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001). He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003); and Tate Gallery, London (1999). “Neukom Vivarium” (2006), a permanent outdoor installation and learning lab for the Olympic Sculpture Park, was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum. Dion lives and works in Pennsylvania.

For additional biographic & bibliographic information:
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York  | In Situ, Paris


Mark Dion: Memento Mori (My Glass is Run)
May 1—October 9, 2005
Mark Dion produces artwork that consistently blurs the boundaries between natural history, art, and science. A recipient of the Larry Aldrich Award in 2001, his works both critique and celebrate the cataloging and presentation of art, historical, and natural materials by museums, exploring themes as diverse as archeology, consumer culture, ecology, environmentalism, and political activism. Dion's outdoor installation, Memento Mori (My Glass is Run), takes the form of a mock cemetery dedicated to significant American naturalists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that had worked in the greater Philadelphia area. The installation was originally commissioned by the Main Line Arts Center in Haverford, Pennsylvania, as part of their exhibition Past Presence: Contemporary Reflections on the Main Line. Reconfigured for presentation at The Aldrich, the work was suggestively installed in The Aldrich's inner courtyard, creating the moody atmosphere of a history-laden churchyard.
When queried on the naturalists chosen for the tombstones, Dion replied, "Versed in literature, poetry, art, medicine, political theory of natural philosophy, they were the first true polymaths and people of startling intellect and talent." Although the group of individuals was not actually buried near one another Dion's project highlights both their connection with Philadelphia and their contributions to the early evolution of natural science in the United States. The work includes headstones dedicated to Benjamin Smith Barton, John Bartram, Jane Colden, Thomas Say, Charles Wilson Peale, Titian Ramsey Peale, Rembrandt Peale, and Raphaelle Peale.