Tiny Collections is one expression of the Material Collective’s mission to foster a safe space for alternative ways of thinking about objects. Individual volumes push at the boundaries of art history’s methods and practices; they value the lyrical and the speculative; some are group projects; they cross boundaries and invent forms; they are not monographs or traditional scholarly research studies; they are not the kinds of art historical projects that could find publication in established journals.
Tiny Collections are gatherings: thoughtfully assembled things, presented in warm light with a murmured “lookit” for introduction. Tiny Collections are the things we do, together.
Sara Rich: Closer to Dust
No one thinks straight. At least no one remembers straight. But ten years ago, things were different, weren’t they?
Roland Barthes once wrote that color in a photograph is like make-up on a corpse. No one is fooled. In anarchic denial of convenient truths, a young international couple meet and marry on a small Mediterranean island. Ten years later, the couple separate in part due to complications with immigration laws. Following this transcontinental rupture, fragmented histories emerge in response to the woman’s encounters with a series of color snapshots. There is death here, familiar to the mourner, as the photographs issue their special powers to magically and auspiciously predict the future and simultaneously to permit the return of the dead. The woman recognizes pieces of herself as past objects indexed within photographic stills, but paradoxically, she is present, outside in this chaos trying not to fall apart. The images and their objects yawn to remind us of the reluctant destiny of all our beloved memories, bodies, and things: that is, to disintegrate.
Borrowing its title from a passage in The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald, Closer to Dust is a séance, a gathering of invitees: inherently biased elegies, the images that conjured them, and the reader- viewer in attendance who is warmly invited to order these intimate fragments into cohesion.
Sea Monsters: Things from the Sea, Volume 2
Beaches are places that give and take, bringing unexpected surprises to society, and pulling essentials away from it. Through monsters, we confront our tiny time between catastrophes and develop a recognition of Otherness by which an ethical understanding of difference becomes possible. Learning to read the monster’s environmental signs often helps humans determine the scope of the monster’s place in the eco/cosmic timeline and defeat it—until the epic cycle inevitably repeats; monsters live and live and live. Even so; when humans identify and confront monsters we do so at the risk of exposing our own monstrosity. When a massive creature is pushed into human proximity by the ocean’s wide shoulders, the waves deposit and erode human assumptions about itself and its environment; words, sounds, breath, water, wind, flesh, blood, and bones wash in and out. Chance encounters reveal us to ourselves anew. When we look into the inky backs of whales, or deep into vortices, what do we see?
In October 2014, the BABEL Working Group headed to the beach. The 3rd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group was held at The University of California, Santa Barbara, where the Pacific Ocean laid her face against the sand and experienced the conference panels exploring, examining, and exalting the margins of sea and shore, of earth and water. This volume of essays represents MEARCSTAPA’s panel, entitled, “The Nature of the Beast/Beasts of Nature: Monstrous Environments.” These essays explore what the environment reveals via monster theory, what monsters—here, whales and whirlpools—make visible or accessible to humanity and what they draw awa from it. Things from the Sea is a queer companion to Walk on the Beach, which emerged from another session at the same conference.
Jason Mohaghegh and Dejan Lukic’s Elemental Disappearances: There are countless sites of disturbance within the postmodern landscape, and yet far too often these disruptive “scenes” remain untheorized and misaligned, treated as random deviations and thus afforded no surpassing consequence or philosophical complexity. Such micro-trajectories necessitate an archive and conceptual matrix that will steal them from their false obscurity and decipher them instead as the passcodes to an imminent global turn. For this, one must return to the amorphous outlook of “the marauder” or “the wanderer.” This book, then, aims to devise an ever-expanding configuration of radical outsides: elemental fronts that lead to unforeseen principles; alternative profiles of experience (intense becomings); incendiary, ominous, or vitalistic signs in circulation across the epochal horizon.
Walk on the Beach: Things from the Sea, Volume 1
Walk on the Beach: Things from the Sea, Volume 1, brings together writing and imagery from the experimental “beachwalk” session(s) at the Third Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group, On the Beach: Precariousness, Risk, Forms of Life, Affinity, and Play at the Edge of the World. We began with conversations about the sea. We meditated together on chance, discover, agency, beauty, and material ecology. We talked about the delicate care of treading the world, the confluence of the personal and the professional, and the possibilities of storytelling. We thought about what happens when we encounter stuff, when we take it, change it, do something with it. When we display it, or sculpt it, or collect it. When we make some thing an object, and an object of looking.
Editorial Board Members
Maggie M. Williams, Series Editor
Asa Simon Mittman
Ben C. Tilghman
Nancy M. Thompson