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Museum Het Domein presents Mark Dion. The Macabre Treasury

Museum Het Domein presents Mark Dion. The Macabre Treasury, an exhibition on view January 20–May 5, 2013.

Mark Dion, Mandrillus Sphinx (detail), 2012. Wood, glass, plastic, tar, metal, ceramic, paper, cork, ribbon, and string. Overall installed dimensions: 175.3 x 67.3 x 128.3 cm. Private Collection, Paris. Photo: Jean Vong. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

The American artist Mark Dion (b. 1961;New Bedford, Massachusetts) is internationally acclaimed as one of today’s most prominent artists. He is playing a pioneering role with his work, which focuses on ecological issues and our perception of nature. Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions like museums shape our understanding of history, the ways we accumulate knowledge, and how we regard the natural world. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between “objective” (“rational”) scientific methods and “subjective” (“irrational”) influences. The artist’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkabinetts of the sixteenth century, are notable for their atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society. Dion has had solo exhibitions at the Tate Gallery in London (1999), The Museum of Modern Art in New York (2004), the Miami Art Museum (2006) and the Nouveau Musée National in Monaco (2011), amongst many other places. In 2012 he took part in dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel.

Dion most recently displayed his work in the Netherlands in solo exhibitions at De Vleeshal in Middelburg (1995) and De Appel in Amsterdam (1997). The Macabre Treasury is Mark Dion’s first solo museum exhibition in the Netherlands in fifteen years. Partly for this reason, the exhibition at Het Domein has the character of a concise retrospective with an emphasis on works created in the last ten years. In 2010 Museum Het Domein already acquired for its collection of contemporary art Dion’s key work Costume Bureau (2006). In this work the artist brings together outfits he has worn over a fifteen-year period, as an explorer, biologist, laboratory researcher, archeologist, entomologist, and exhibition maker. Costume Bureau is one of Het Domein’s iconic works that demonstrates the ways in which artists today often take on roles that go far beyond the realms of art—as anthropologists, archeologists, or other kinds of investigators of their era.

Every one of Mark Dion’s exhibitions reflects on the function of the museum itself—institutional critique is an integral part of his presentation strategy. “The museum needs to be turned inside out—the back rooms put on exhibition and the displays put into storage,” the artist once proposed. He argues that museums often lose sight of their primary reason for existence: to cultivate objects. For The Macabre Treasury, Dion will transform Museum Het Domein’s contemporary art wing into a giant Wunderkabinett. The exhibition will be divided into various departments of a fictional museum. Dion’s macabre treasure chamber will thus include amongst others Departments of Zoology and Archeology, a Bureau of Museums and the Culture of Collections, a Hunting Salon, a Cinematheque and a Cabinet of Mystery. As part of the exhibition of his own work, the artist will present a selection of objects from Museum Het Domein’s historical collection and from other local museums and archives. The objects vary from local archeological finds to an eleventh-century tree-trunk coffin with a female skeleton. As is the case with all of Dion’s presentations, the exhibition in Het Domein can be considered an attempt to restore something of our earlier notion of the universal museum with its hybrid combinations of different disciplines and fields of knowledge. Newly inciting the curiosity of the museumgoer is just as essential. The artist once proclaimed that museums should be restored to their roles as “powder kegs of the imagination.”

On Saturday, January 19, at 5pm, in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, Mark Dion will lead a walk through of the show and will join Roel Arkesteijn, the curator for contemporary art at Museum Het Domein, in conversation.

A publication will accompany the exhibition.

Museum Het Domein
Kapittelstraat 6, Postbus 230
NL-6130 AE Sittard

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