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  • Writer's pictureArthur Bruso

Mark Dion’s The Phantom Museum

Wood cabinet with niches. Each niche contains a scientific specimens that is painted with glow in the dark paint.
The Phantom Museum (Wonder Workshop); 2015; walnut cabinet, objects with white glow in the dark paint, black light; 102" x 96" x 12"

The cabinet of curiosities emerged during the 16th century. While some still exist today, the majority of them are no longer extant, but often drawings of the rooms, or illustrations of the individual objects were commissioned and still survive as intriguing evidence of what they looked like or contained.

With The Phantom Museum, Mark Dion pays homage to the lost objects of the cabinets. By creating a facsimile of the object as portrayed in the surviving illustrations, he constructs a phantom of that object. Then painting the object with glow in the dark paint, he further emphasizes that the object is an apparition of the original, not in fact the actual object, nor is it intended to be a facsimile.

Dion sees this as the continuation of a chain of reproduction of the lost objects, that has been started when the original owners had the first illustrations commissioned. His glowing objects are part of a living culture that is long gone, leaving only these representations - these ghosts of things. 

Arthur Bruso © 2017

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