Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Art of Collecting (Part 2)!

As a child I use to collect everything I could get my hands on.  Erasers in different shapes and color, napkins with different motives, stationery (some with smell, some without) the list was endless. Later on it changed to postcards (new and used), magazines, cans and once again I could go on forever, did I have to name every single thing.
Now the postcards have been divided. I only kept the ones that people actually send to me. The magazines are thrown in the trash and the cans I must admit are still in my attic. I feel that each one is a find, and could never get myself to get rid of them.

Nowadays I collect old photographs that I buy at the fleamarket. I don’t have any relations to them, but manage to attach myself to them anyway.
I collect the notes from the library books, coins that I found in the streets and colored glass vases.
The next time I have to move, some of the things that I have been collecting while living here, will probably go the same way as so many things before; in the trash.

I spend half of my life collecting and the other half throwing out what I collected. At one point I always realized, that I either lost interest or didn’t really need it anymore. Being a creative soul is almost synonymous with being a collector. You need things to be creative and once you move on from one skill obsession to another you still keep the leftovers from the last project.
As long as we are steady in one place and have the room there is no reason for us not to collect. The problem occurs when we at one point have to either move, or we run out of space.
When we have to sort out our collectibles, we keep the items of most importance. They are often linked to memories, feeling and thoughts.
A friend of mine brought stones going back and forth from the States to Europe.  Each stone represented a place that she had been and something familiar to her. In my mind the idea of bringing stones in ones luggage, is not only unnecessary but also a bit stupid considering that it most likely would require paying overweight.
However her simple respond to my slight scorned way of asking if she really intended to bring stones on the airplane was, that we each choose what we carry.
Now I would never carry stones, but I do see her point.

Every collection means something to the owner and when we collect, the items we posses become personal and invaluable to us. Therefore we find it difficult to detach ourselves from them and once we have started one collection it is easy to start another one without getting writ of the old and thereby increase our number of possessions.

There is the professional collector who often collects in order to (at some point) make a profit, the collection functions almost as a long-term investment.
In this group I would place things, which are defined as collectibles, such as art, furniture, stamps, coins, and postcards.
Many of today’s art collectors are opening their collection to the benefit of the public. Earlier many guarded their collection, and many of the artworks ended up in the collector’s attic and were never shown to anyone.
This new tendency gives us the impression that their drive of collecting does not only come from the idea of ownership, but also an urge to educate people in what they find good art to be. 

There is the hobby collector, who collects things just for the fun of collecting. What they have in common is the aimless gesture.  Sometimes it almost becomes a ritual. Like when I a couple of times went traveling, and bought an umbrella because the weather required it.  Now every time I go travel I feel compelled to buy an umbrella, regardless of what the weather is like. It is a nice souvenir, and is still useful even when I get back home.
As a result I possess more umbrellas than the average person. Apart from always being prepared for any kind of weather, they don’t really serve a purpose. Ironic enough I chose not to bring any of them when I moved to London, but I couldn’t give them away either. 

There also is the habitual collector who is not aware of their tendency to collect. They see a comic in the newspaper, clip it out and save it because they think it’s fun, and can maybe be used at a later occasion. This ritual they repeat ever so often with several things.  They don’t collect a specific thing, but have a collection of many different things and might not be aware of this.
When cleaning out my Grandmothers house some years ago, we found a drawer full of empty used envelopes. All of them contained little notes that she wrote down while on the phone.
There was information about what time people would be arriving, dental appointment etc. I have no Idea why she wanted to hold on to these envelopes. The information on them could clearly not be used again, but yet she kept them throughout her life. 

Everyone is a collector. If it isn’t postcards, stones, cameras or stamps it is something else.
In some way all our belongings are things we have collected, which we choose to move around with us when we go from place to place. Even things as banal as CD’s, books, shoes and silverware, which are to be found in almost every household, are collections. When we posses multiple items within the same category it automatically becomes a collection of something.
But the everyday artifacts are a different kind of collection than the ones we actively choose to collect.
These is no clear definition of how many items a collection must consist of before it can be defined as a collection.  In the end it depends of what is being collected and the relationship to those items.
This notion of collecting is really banal. Once we own more than one of the same object, it no longer serves a practical purpose. In theory one thing of each should be enough, the first umbrella should protect me just as good from the rain as the second and third. So when we own more than one of the same item it becomes excessive.

Why is it that we as humans feel the need to surround ourselves with useless stuff? Even homeless people collect things, which aren’t useful to them, and they don’t have a house to stock it in.  It is strange that we all have this compulsion to own things of no importance and yet important to us. Collecting is somehow extravagant but also a necessity in order to make our lives interesting. A world without collectors would be boring and colorless, as the collection is a form of expression of the collector and their personality, just as the clothes we choose to wear, music that we listen to and things that we read. But then these are all just types of collections.

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