The Redistribution of Curiosity

The Redistribution of Curiosity

Christa Donner

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Christa Donner, selections from The ReDistribution of Curiosity, 2015, ink and acrylic on paper, 16.5 x 12.3 cm each

By its nature, the archive is carefully and systematically organized, bringing a sense of structure and order to the chaos of the natural world. As increasingly vast amounts of specialized data are collected and stored there, this collected knowledge also attains a growing measure of unknowableness: any serious researcher can become familiar only with a small fraction of its contents, and for non-specialists outside the Institute there is little access to its contents at all. This situation opens up new opportunities for curiosity and wonder once again within the ordered systems of the collection.

The ReDistribution of Curiosity began through a series of conversations with MPIWG scholars working in diverse areas of research, from medieval medicines to early computer graphics. In the process Christa Donner came to consider the complex role(s) of imagery throughout the history of science. The act of drawing has the capacity to abstract and ambiguate any sense of time, space, scale and origin these images might initially have, allowing for creative recategorization, unexpected visual connections and the emergence of new narratives. Working with the Institute's library and digitized rare book collection, she created a personal archive of notes and images using inks, pigments, cut paper, and shadows. The project expanded through a generative workshop and public exhibition at Berlin's Aviatrix Atelier.

In ordering the resulting images by my own systems of categorization, as did collectors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Christa Donner sought to to share these reconfigured collections with others. This is where the ReDistribution of Curiosity comes in: a selection of the completed drawings have been multiplied as postcards to be disseminated both within and beyond the Institute, activating our collective curiosity through the participation of the MPIWG community.