Wunderkammer Oh Wunderkammer

Posted in MediaArt by tpdr on February 6, 2009

The Wunderkammer, also known as Cabinet of Wonder, Cabinet of Curiosities, Kunstkammer and Wonder-room, were first created mid-sixteenth century, even though they were still a piece of furniture, a cabinet. As soon as the cabinets became to small for all the objects relating to history, ethnography, natural history, geology, aercheology, religion, art, etc. they became real rooms. These spaces could be seen as a microcosm and a theater of the world or even a memory theater, all precursors to museums. Controling this microcosm one could feel like a ruler of the world, but what I find interesting is that I can imagine people getting aware of their own modest position in the world and feeling connected to the outside world in a mental way standing in this homely space.






I have been interested in this concept since a long time, just last year I worked with a collection of objects as representation of my own mental world, my own memory theater. Also looking at artist inspired by the same concept of Cabinets of Curiosities, like Wesley Meuris or Hans Op de Beeck, I have kept thinking about it. Then I sudenly noticed a relation to a project my colleagues at Transmedia and I have been working on these last months. The project is called the Magenta Room and is based on the Dream House Project of La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela and deals with the concept of inside/outside. For more details you can check the blog, but I just wanted to explain more about the relation with the Wunderkammer as I mentioned.

Working with the idea of inside/outside the Magenta Room filters the natural light comming in, changing the contrast and increasing the recognition of subtle changes of the sunlight. At the same time, during the daytime you can look from the inside at the outside but when it becomes dark outside the filters become a mirror. One extra is the fact that we are also working with the sound of the sun. This sound from outer space, hearing it while having two feet on the ground inside this rather small room, in combination with the previously described effects, made me feel like I think I could feel standing in a Wunderkammer. To be more precise, as I mentioned before, I think you can also in this room feel connected to the rest of the world, even feel connected with outer space and reflect on your own humble position as part of this bigger cosm.

In short I associate the feeling of microcosm meeting macrocosm in one room with both the Wunderkammers and our own Magenta Room. Talking to the senior researcher who initiated this project, Frans Evers, about this, he concluded that it this sense we could call the Magenta Room a possible 21st century Wunderkammer, which is fine by me. Still one major difference has to be put forward on this context, namely the fact that the Wunderkammers were stuffed with objects and the Magenta Room, on the contrary, is a totally empty room, no objects that are not part of the architecture.

For myself I can conclude now by saying my thinking about how a Wunderkammer should look, will never be the same again.