Curiosity is the foundation of discovery and knowledge, and everyone’s sense of curiosity is manifested in different ways. Curiosity can even be linked to our innate penchant for collecting objects, but the appeal of collecting is different for everyone. For some, it’s a way of preserving the past, and for others, a way to satisfy their desire to showcase their taste to the world. And this intrinsical aspect of human nature is how the first cabinets of curiosities came about. In the early days of its origin, these collections were used by European royalty and noblemen to establish their socioeconomic ranking in the community. As time went on, they evolved, becoming what many consider to be one of the early ancestors to our modern-day museums.
Strange at times, but incredibly enchanting – the nature of cabinets of curiosities and the nature of modern-day Shanghai feels like they have many things in common. However, chances are, no one anticipated that China would host a cabinet of curiosities of its very own. Stereotypically, many view the Chinese people as being more conservative and close-minded, but in reality, they’re more adventurous than most of the world gives them credit for. Granted, the Chinese people’s views of what concepts and aesthetics are “good” have been shaped for years and can be considered a minor obstacle for such an experimental exhibition. But Da Shi, the curator of Cabinet of Curiosities’ China debut, is optimistic and eager to lead the way and show that the Chinese audience is ready to expand their minds and feed their curiosity.
For some visitors, their initial impression of the exhibition is that it’s eclectic or even terrifying. Some have even said some of the works revived memories of their childhood fears, which is understandable, considering that one of the most disturbing installations that left many spooked was made with what appears to be real human skin. An infatuation with death and its mysteries appear to be a common theme throughout the exhibition, with skeletons and other macabre elements making frequent appearances, which of course, include inner organs and other anatomical parts.
To bring the exhibition closer to the standards of a modern museum gallery, Cabinet of Curiosities exhibition is also showing a variety of other artworks, not only just the morbid and grisly, despite much of the exhibition being just that. Artist works span a wide spectrum of themes, such as a modern reimagining of the phenakistoscope, an artificially cultivated plant installation, and a meticulously designed mechanical installation. Each piece of work not only embodies the curious nature of their creator but also aims to ignite the curiosity of visitors. For humans, curiosity is something that’s been hardwired into our brains and embedded in our consciousness. I suppose that’s why, even through the test of time, cabinets of curiosities still remain so fascinating. Click here to purchase tickets for the exhibition and satisfy your inner curiosity.
Event: Cabinet of Curiosities
Exhibition Dates: April 16, 2017 ~ July 16, 2017
Duoyunxuan Art Center
No. 1188 Tianyaoqiao Road 3F
Xuhui District, Shanghai
People’s Republic of China