Collapse

Created at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) Residency, 2004

In an effort to understand the world we live in, we employ systems of order and classification to help describe those subjects under scrutiny. These systems of order also work to describe ourselves through the types of classifications we establish. Our ordering codes by default reflect our biases towards that which we are applying order, and essentially define our value system. In the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, Borges offers the example of a ’certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ which separates animals into a number of strange classifications such as “tame”, “embalmed”, or “that from a long way off look like flies”. His point in citing this taxonomy is to demonstrate, through the “exotic charm of another system of thought…the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that”. Thus we come to recognize that the stability of our own systems of classification is not quite as solid as we might hope. Though in practice these systems govern our beliefs about the operating structures of the world, they are subject to collapse as new knowledge supersedes old. And so we may begin to see our ordering codes for what they are: attempts to control the universe we inhabit but ultimately fail to comprehend. And if that universe is a rural dump, with signs delineating small patches of order and containment, what of the landscape beyond? Can we not imagine that those very objects of refuse managed within the confines of the dump are almost certain to be found out there as well? And does their existence outside the lines of containment cause concern, or are we absolved of responsibility since our ordering codes cannot account for them?