Artist Mark Dion has exhibited internationally, including the Tate Gallery and Museum of Modern Art. In the fall of 2011, he created an interactive installation in the Institute for the Humanities gallery at the University of Michigan.
In his research, Dion discovered a curious system from the origins of the University of Michigan: Judge Augustus Woodward’s “Catholepistemiad” of 1816, outlining his dreams for the university and its 13 professorships, each titled with an invented mash-up of Latin and Greek words.
Using this system as a starting point, Dion began a scavenger hunt for objects and props, some serving as set dressing, others featured, through digitally scanned and cast replicas, as revered symbols of the antique system. He simultaneously began construction of a detailed two-part setting: a convincingly institutional waiting area and it’s adjoining trophy room. The final experience pokes fun at the notion of institutional idealism bottlenecked with controlled accessibility.
This short film by Sharad Patel portrays Dion’s creative process and the experience of the exhibition.
The film begins with split screen documentation, echoing Dion’s exhibit style of distinct categorical compartments (sometimes organized as Cabinets of Curiosities).
This documentary style quickly transforms into a vivid recreation of the finished installation experience using cinematic vocabulary. The worn aesthetic of the second half of the film supports the out-of-date props and furniture in the installation, and also references Dion’s preference for old-fashioned organic/chemical photography.
Performers in the installation: Chanel Von Habsburg-Lothringen and Laura Gilmore
Artists assisting Dion: Institute Curator and performance artist Amanda Krugliak, artists Scott Hocking and Lily Cox-Richard.