Since the late 1980s Mark Dion (b. 1961, Massachusetts) has been delving into the tropes and research methods of scientists, explorers, museum curators and archaeologists. He has created a body of work that playfully presents art as scientific enquiry or field work, questioning how knowledge is gathered, classified and displayed.
Five installations will be displayed at Whitechapel Gallery: a scholar's study invites us to unravel intricate drawings and models; the Bureau for the Centre of the Study for Surrealism and its Legacy displays the strange magic of obsolete things; the muddy banks of the Thames have also yielded their treasures for poetic display in a gigantic cabinet; while a Dickensian Curiosity Shop tempts us with the bizarre aura of American bric-a-brac. Each immersive environment is also a habitat, evoking the characters that observe, conserve or exploit the natural world.
Beautifully designed with allusions to Dion's own artistic style, the catalogue also features new essays by Gilda Williams and Petra Lange-Berndt, an interview between the artist and Iwona Blazwick and a reprint of a short story by National Book Award for Fiction winner Andrea Barrett.