What do an erased map, a displaced fossil, a mu-sical score open to be performed in many possible ways, an inoperable archive, or a constellation of images punctuated by an ever-shifting logic of pos- sible interrelation, dust, and gelatine all have in common? Or, let us consider another scene: Michel Foucault’s laughter at the famous passage found in a work of Jorge Luis Borges which opens The Order of Things. According to a Chinese encyclopaedia “animals are divided into: a) belonging to the Emperor, b) embalmed, c) tame, d) sucking pigs, e) sirens, f) fabulous, g) stray dogs.” The classification made according to an impossibly disparate order indicates the fact that in every culture there are fundamental organising codes, which carve out the possibility of things to appear as perceivable and interrelated, situated in a common locus that holds them together.
Museum collections, libraries, archives are characterised by architectures, ordering systems and media, which enable particular networks of meanings to emerge over others. They transform artefacts, which often have a fragmentary na- ture, into figures with particular identities and the promise of knowledge. They are places “of accu- mulating everything, of establishing a sort of general archive, the will to enclose in one place all times, all epochs, all forms, all tastes, the idea of constituting a place of all times that is itself out- side of time and inaccessible to its ravages.” In this sense they are spaces simultaneously within and outside culture, or what Foucault calls “het- erotopias.” Next to being a representation of cultural order, they are spaces of crisis, or of infinite possibilities of juxtaposition and reinterpretation. Foucault’s laughter is significant, for it indicates an interruption, a shattering of the possibility to make sense, to narrativize, an anarchic moment. Again, dust, gelatine, a musical score, an erased map act to form a disorderly set of objects. Displaced from their proper pasts, they look like fragments scat- tered on a messy excavation site. Or perhaps they form a scene, by the rules of an unknown and complex syntax. (excerpt)Download PDF