TO HAVE SOMETHING OF MINE
– Caspar Eric Christensen
What does it mean to have a private collection today? It has to do with ownership. Within the frames of modern capitalism however, ironically, most of what I have, I don’t really own. Likewise these are my words even though they are not really mine. 1
Words are something or some thing that has been given to me, just like my name (this burdened center of ‘who I am’) is something that i am given. And from here i too give words, as a human (haha), that has mythically, in the garden, defined itself as ‘the great namer of things’: Words as a frame within which the images of the world are organized and made understandable to us. And vice versa. This is one way of grasping the images of plants in A Private Collection; named and held down, talking back, or indeed growing, as they are exhibited. There is an irony at play here, which is not just the basic irony between language and material things. There is some sort of irony of the private: The things I have, even though they also have me. Like memories, like desire
To be private can denote, says the internet, something that is removed from the eye or knowledge of the public. It can be something that is unexpressed, or it can be something belonging to me, and me only. The difference within these definitions really come down to a question of power. The question of some body choosing privacy, or indeed, being ascribed privacy.
Here this is yours, could you hold this for me, this is your responsibility now.
Your body is your own buisness.
My private collection, could both be the things I choose not to share, or, it could be, that I am unable to share. The irony of A Private Collection is, that nothing is ever really private. The power of it is that it refuses to just be something that is what it is, to stay out of sight, out of mind etc. (as if forgetting is ever a thing one can have agency over). “Collection” reminds me of memory or remembering and recollecting – gathering information and forcing them into a specific system. A certain way of framing reality, or a specific mode of ‘seeing and unseeing’, to use some of the notions in Judith Butlers chapter from Frames of War (2009): ”Torture and the ethics of photography”. The ethics of showing something otherwise (or normally private might be to say: What is mine is yours.
In A Private Collection the system of what gets to appear within the frames of the work seem to be: plants and flowers sharing its signifiers (in the most involuntary sense of that word) with those of a sexual scene: naked ladies, touch-me-nots, forget-me-nots, vanilla, rape, maidenhair tree and obedience. Or actually maybe these are words of something touched or untouched. Rape in this respect the most provocative piece: Cut out (!) from bedsheets it transfers its sense of violence, a sense of abuse and of attack to the rest of the collection. Not unimportantly the images that make up the collected work seem to underscore the act of transferring, being as they are a (im)print of material that has been transfered from one surface, or body, to another. What they share is a certain type of specificity, emphasized by the different modes of physical framing, leaving me with a feeling of being a violent looker, forcing the images in to some kind of limited and limiting meaningfulness. 2
The sexual plant life (yes) theme has to do with violence, pleasure and intimacy. There is a kind of story here, which is also the story of how pleasure and power is distributed within the cultural landscape. Neither word nor image can escape their destination of being locked up together. It is not, however, a question of either or in this respect. Naked Ladies are not not Naked Ladies. But they are not just naked ladies (for one, they are actually “Nøgne Jomfruer”). They are also just what comes up in some cultural search engine algorithm.3 Just like a private collection is never just private. It is also something, whether as a heavy piece of jewelry, that we have been given. A Private Collection is, in this sense, an ironically distributing mode of sensibility towards pleasure or aesthetics.4 The aesthetics of powerful vulnerability or the pleasure of unpleasent beauty, forcing its way through space, with a new sort of ruthless irony: An irony that, in the poetic5 sense of Donna Harraway, may entail that it matters what matter matter matters or indeed, here, now, what frames frame frames; A skeptical way of looking at fx how plantnames and the role of the woman as a sexual object is connected.