What makes an intellectual? What is the basis of property? What is the relationship between the life of the mind and the sensual world?
Curator Yoko Ott and artist Matthew Offenbacher teamed up to investigate the aesthetic power of objects and ideas in the lives of artists, curators, and university professors by carefully pairing thirteen artists with thirteen professional thinkers. The artists were asked to visit their assigned person’s workplace, engage them in conversation, and select several things to borrow for the duration of the exhibition. The objects brought back from these expeditions—tools, raw materials, décor, texts, and other (harder to classify) items—have been installed by the artists in a setting especially designed by Ott and Offenbacher. The resulting exhibition is a hands-on database: a non-hierarchical collection of objects available for reading, touching, and looking.
Among the 430 objects collected: a die-cast 1957 Chevy Bel-Air model car, a translation of Spinoza’s famous ring in unfired clay and gold spray paint, a vial of buckminsterfullerene, fossil teeth, two full bookshelves of art books and periodicals, suggestions from the chief curator of the Frye Art Museum on how to approach a problem, an odd clear cast-plastic fork, an old typewriter, a beat-up copy of Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s The Art of Arousal.
The tableau of objects in Intellectual Property suggests rich and complex ideas about what intellectual work looks like today. Some themes which have emerged: an interest in decreasing the specialization and fragmentation of separate disciplines, an emphasis on the physical over the virtual, a celebration of amateur enthusiasms and creative misunderstandings, and a desire to make space for the production of new kinds of knowledge. This trip back to the time of wunderkammers, to the very beginning of the Enlightenment, is to imagine—if only for a moment—a place where science, art, philosophy, and literature are not estranged.
Tina Lee was our amazing assistant curator who took many of the photographs on this website, our very talented carpenter was Scott Lawrimore. A special thank-you to all the participating artists, professors, and curators who have been incredibly generously with their time, effort and expertise.