Friday, July 15, 2011

Collections: Completists vs. Accumulators

I want to preserve this comment about the table as a crucial structure for the pre-moderns, as discussed in this review of two books on collectors and collections by Sally Feldman

Freud was not systematic in his acquisitions and was far more interested in the differences between the objects than in forming any unified theory about them. His approach to them was very similar to his approach to psychoanalysis: he would seek hidden meanings through details, much as he would explore the hidden recesses of the mind to unravel each human journey. Freud attempted to draw an analogy between the historical topography of Rome and different psychic events lodged within the mind, so that each stage of an individual’s development matched the evolution of civilisation. Indeed, Freud would use archaeology as a metaphor for psychoanalysis, explaining to one patient that conscious material “wears away” while what is unconscious is relatively unchanging: “I illustrated my remarks by pointing to the antique objects about my room. They were, in fact, I said, only objects found in a tomb, and their burial had been their preservation.”

And this approach underlines a crucial difference between earlier forms of thinking about the world and post-Enlightenment views. Michel Foucault, in The Order of Things, contrasts the two as being the difference between an assumption of a fixed and immutable universe which could be formulated into a matrix or table, and one which was subject to change, to development, to evolution. From the end of the 18th century, he argued, “the table, ceasing to be the ground of all possible orders, the matrix of all relations, the form in accordance with which all beings are distributed in their singular individuality, forms no more than a thin surface film for knowledge… The visible order, with its permanent grid of distinctions, is now only a superficial glitter above an abyss. The space of Western knowledge is now about to topple.”
[emphasis mine]
(via bookslut)

No comments: