Sebastiaan Bremer

October 2015: Group Show – Affinity Atlas

Affinity Atlas at the Tang Museum

September 5 – January 3

Affinity Atlas charts an exploratory path across disciplines built on idiosyncratic treasures from the Tang Teaching Museum collection and punctuated with recent works by a roster of contemporary artists. Artworks, images, and objects spanning centuries and continents collide and coalesce, forging fresh connections between seemingly disparate works. The exhibition seeks to find affinities in unexpected juxtapositions.

Affinity Atlas draws inspiration from the last work of the pioneering art historian Aby Warburg, who from 1925 to 1929 (the year of his death) undertook an ambitious cataloguing project—nothing less than a visual compendium of his life’s research. Forgoing the customary art historical narrative, Warburg instead chose to illuminate his scholarly research through a constellation of some 2,000 images, which he pinned onto a series of room-filling black panels.

Reaching across vastly different periods and cultures, the panels allowed Warburg to find relationships among images that were worlds apart and to theorize on a collective psychology that connects humans across time and space. He named this “picture atlas” after Mnemosyne, who in Greek mythology is the mother of nine Muses and the goddess of the art of remembrance. At the heart of the Mnemosyne Atlas lay a highly inquisitive approach to the world and an imaginative view of scholarly research that opened a new era in the study of images and offered an innovative approach to visual knowledge whose legacy continues today.

In keeping with Warburg’s expansive approach to images, Affinity Atlas presents a series of montages and shifting perspectives for visitors to explore. In so doing, it underscores the museum’s laboratory-like mission of experimentation and builds on the strengths and surprises of the Tang’s collection.

The show will also include a shelf curated by a rotating roster of Skidmore faculty. Former participants in the Mellon Faculty Seminar, they were invited to propose a selection of things that represent their discipline or personal interest and to write a label explaining their choices. They were asked to consider the following questions: What story would you like to tell? How do your chosen objects allow you to tell it? And, what does it mean to tell a story with only the space of a single shelf? Under these parameters, personal examples of cabinets of curiosity or wunderkammer will be displayed and described over the course of the exhibition.

Affinity Atlas is organized by Dayton Director Ian Berry and supported by Friends of the Tang.