As museums have mounted more exhibitions from their permanent collections, revisiting their archives and breathing new life into years’ worth of holdings, this generation’s artists are also looking back-revisiting materiality, composing and recombining nontraditional materials, perhaps out of necessity, or as a comment on a collective loss of intimacy through lives lived online. NOT THE WAY YOU REMEMBERED explores how collecting and displaying personal, physical objects creates and recreates memories and associations, both individual and collective. Collecting here refers to the artist’s methodology, with the amassing of specific, charged materials being central to their practice, or, simply, a visual accumulation of things. With the process of selection and presentation often made explicit in the work, the items assembled project “specialness” or preciousness, while often lacking that quality inherently. Situating the ordinary, banal, familiar or personal into grander narratives activates new sites of tribute and remembrance. Considering the popularity of television programs about collecting (and hoarding), we are reminded that sentiment and physical attachments are powerful motivators. The artists in REMEMBERED use the power of association to explore the ways in which objects become invested with emotional and intimate value. The resultant arrangements-of trophies, scrapbook clippings, family snapshots, replicas of cultural artifacts-begin to collapse the distance between spectator and object in the sometimes alienating space of a museum, reconnecting viewers to the physical, emotional world of memory and daily experience in an age where the virtual often displaces the real.
Beginning with French artist Arman’s response to Yves Klein in 1960 through the accumulative installations of Ilya Kabakov and Thomas Hirschhorn, that which governs what can be considered “junk” has often hinged on context. The 16 artists in this exhibition are using certain strategies of their forebears to engage in their own explorations of time and place-marking through material, while initiating new dialogues around worth and significance. To borrow from the time-worn adage, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure-or in this case, another museum’s.