Jim Cogswell: Cosmogonic Tattoos

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Cosmogonic Tattoos

Cosmogonies are our explanations for how our world came to be. They reflect our assumptions about the fundamental nature of the universe. They inflect our values and help determine how we behave in the world, how we think of who we are as a species, as a society, as individuals. Through collection, curation, and display our museums narrate the objects they contain to also make statements about how we see ourselves...

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Cosmogonic Tattoos

Cosmogonies are our explanations for how our world came to be. They reflect our assumptions about the fundamental nature of the universe. They inflect our values and help determine how we behave in the world, how we think of who we are as a species, as a society, as individuals. Through collection, curation, and display our museums narrate the objects they contain to also make statements about how we see ourselves. I am tattooing the exteriors of these two museums with images of what is found inside, reframing the stories they tell about who we are and how we came to be who we are. In doing so, I am calling attention to the mutability of the objects within—across time and space, between materials, geographies, and institutions. I am proposing the museum as a fictive space built on coincidence and personal narrative, the chance layering of objects and representations subject to the reflections and curiosities of viewers as well as the obsessions of our current predicaments.

The story of the objects gathered in these and all museums is a story not only of displaced things but also of displaced peoples. The installation at the Kelsey and UMMA is intended as a single continuously unfolding narrative that includes the gap between the two buildings, a gap evoked by my series of transmission towers and the march of refugees between. I want that distance to speak to us— about migration and exile, loss and longing; about objects that were looted, exchanged, and destroyed in the movement of peoples through history; about sagas of trade, conquest, appropriation, and plunder. Hands changing hands, shaping histories we tell ourselves in order to somehow comprehend it all.

Jim Cogswell

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