Der Wunderkammer

all images link back to original sites.

In many ways I have always been drawn to the idea of displaying trinkets and collections in cupboards and diorama frames, but I was introduced to the concept of a ‘Wunderkammer’ a few summers ago by a friend and fellow artist, Blake. He showed me a Make magazine article about the displays, and I was enamored.

According to Wikipedia, “Cabinets of curiosities (also known as Kunstkammer, Wunderkammer, Cabinets of Wonder, or wonder-rooms) were encyclopedic collections of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were, in Renaissance Europe, yet to be defined. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings) and antiquities.”

Historically, the best cabinets were displayed by wealthy collectors – those who could afford to spend money on expensive oddities.  The weirder the cabinet, especially in scientific terms, the more impressive and coveted the collection.

And here is my own Wunderkammer:

by clicking the image you will be taken to my flickr page, where you can view a much larger version of the picture as well as see notes detailing what each item is and where I acquired it.

My Wunderkammer consists mostly of natural elements like sea glass, pebbles, abalone, coral, and some agates and quartz. Most of the objects were found by myself, with the exception of some of the bigger stones. The cabinet I found at goodwill, in need of a good sanding and some door handles. You can’t see in this picture, but I painted the outside a nice turquoise color. I was especially excited about the glass doors! It hangs on the wall by my bed.

I’ve noticed coral is a hugely common element.

Here’s my take on the Wunderkammer: “It’s a place to keep and show off all your stuff! A reason to collect random and weird objects, to be proud of such strange collections, and to make use/brag of an obsessive hoarding habit!”

french artist Maissa Toulet – her site is worth a double, even triple look

I have a huuuuuge tendency to hold onto things that I find. Yes, some call this hoarding.  (Luckily, I have just enough self control not to end up like those people on that tlc show. ) For whatever reason, I am always excited to scour goodwill, thriftstores, garage sales, etc. for random trinkets and oddities. (I can just see my boyfriend reading this and groaning inwardly as his desire to someday cohabitate with me and – er – all my tchotchke… slowly dissolves.)

noteworthy: the bottle of teeth (!!!) on the top shelf

A lot of the thrill comes from the hunt. I love digging, scouring, and opening things up. I have an eagle eye when it comes to interesting things.  Also, in the vein of my love of vintage, I enjoy having things that not everyone else has. Antiques really intrigue me because I love to think about who has owned and used them in the past, and how they were loved or perceived by others. I like the fact that I admire something that has possibly been admired by someone of a different time or in a completely different lifestyle than mine.  I know that a lot of people are actually creeped and grossed out by old things for exactly this reason – “it’s so old, who knows where it’s been!”

mini globes! i want! i need! i exclaim!

I covet small, interesting items like treasures, and it shows up in all my art – especially my artists books.  Since I was young I have held this love for precious little things, the more pocket sized the better. It’s like keeping some sort of secret talisman, to draw inspiration from. I assign a small amount of power to certain tiny charms, and I like the whimsical belief that they may have some affect on my well being and luck. I’ll be the first to admit it, I find comfort in stuff.  And, weirdly enough – the Wunderkammer tickles another fancy of mine: organizing, cataloging, and presenting things in an attractive way. But that’s another post…

I’m always on the lookout for cabinets like this one, at goodwill.

See Also:

Wikipedia entry for “Cabinet of Curiosities”
long but interesting entry about the ‘kammers
Albertus Seba, “the most sumptuous and complete record of any eighteenth century cabinet of natural history.”
Wunderkammer
, Australian showcase that doubles as a retail store!
I highly suggest doing some extensive google research if you are interested in these awesome displays. All the above was found on just the first three or so pages of a google search!

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3 Responses

  1. Stunning images! I adore the post so much! xoxo

  2. becky! it’s annie. i am in love with this post. it’s actually really relevant to the work i’ve been doing in my photography class. i’ve been shooting peoples’ collections; collections of anything really, and of any extent, small or large. i’m really into the idea of people hoarding, or obsessively acquiring strange little trinkets. are you living in portland right now? i’d love to take some photos of your wunderkammer!

  3. […] up and soon I had too many frames to keep it closed. Displaying collections (see: my take on the Wunderkammer) is something that is really intriguing to me, and I think is often what defines the thin line […]

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