241 Things

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Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

Flos van Haren is a writer.

‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’ goes the famous and absurd line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). It popped into mind upon seeing stuffed dog heads hanging on the wall of the Horniman Museum. But of course, why not, they belong to the inventory of the animal kingdom. The museum attempts to give a neutral enumeration of things in the world, based on Frederick John Horniman’s private collection. That leads to odd categories and a collection of objects, containing stuffed animals as well as plastic models and skeletons. Less spotted woodpecker, brown rat, passenger pigeon, dodo and kakapo. There is still the optimistic notion in the air that by dividing everything into groups, the world can be controlled and understood. As I observe these categories a young woman asks me if she can make some inquiries about photographing in museums. The last questions concerns my origins, just white, western, European, what do we make of it? She shows me the options and says, yeah, I’m Korean-American, and that’s not in there either. And that is the very issue with classification: there’s always something missing. Completeness is a dream.

I came across these photos during the Frieze art fair in London. At first, I passed them by without much notice, but by coincidence I overheard a conversation about these images:

At the birthday party of a high ranking Stasi officer (the East German Ministry of Security,) the Stasi men and women were dressed up as the profession of those they were spying on. This photo was found in the Stasi archives. It’s an artwork by Sven Johne, Carnival, 2008.

Sven Johne, Carnival, 2008
Sven Johne, Carnival, 2008