found art

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“I don’t think art can stand up to nature.”

-Walter De Maria

My assistant Tulip and I went to check on the Museum of Natural Selection and test out the new waders yesterday.
Everything went well except that the Museum was gone.
My first instinct was to blame The Man… Jay-Z and Beyoncé must have made a call to the Parks Department, and the suits had hauled it off to an underground storage facility. But after some serious wading in the post-storm flood waters we found a piece of the wreckage, 40 yards downstream. So this Biblical destruction was probably wrought by certified teenage art critics, with too much time on their hands during Holy Week.
In a way this makes me feel better, knowing that the plastic lobster I pulled out of the stream has been returned to the wild, rather than living out its near-eternal plastic life in a landfill or art gallery. Does that make me insufficiently environmental? It’s a question I’ll ponder on Saturday as I wade in the waters, looking for old and new friends.

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This week’s acquisition at the Museum of Natural Selection:hand holding an angular bone and a piece of white plastic. They look somewhat similsr.

An unidentified bone and an uncanny plastic facsimile.

And this!

A tiny sticker that says "I (heart) dolphins, J' (heart) les daupins"

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Yesterday’s curatorial criteria for the Museum of Natural Selection may have been as simple as “round things.”


The Museum itself is changing colors and collecting its own flotsam. If it was a mood ring it would be signaling contentment, with a passionate undercurrent.


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There’s a museum near my house now, made from an abandoned chest of drawers. It is on uninvited loan to the Maryland Parks Department, tucked beneath the bank of a small stream. The stream is fed by storm drains and parking lots. It is home to water fowl, small fish, lost soccer balls, and loose plastic bags.


A museum is a fiction—a curated narrative that corresponds to the reality of the collector. Relinquishing control of the museum allows several narratives to collide and mix. The artist/curator Marcel Broodthaers, speaking of his own museum, said this confrontation of fictions leads to “a more vigorous consciousness of reality.”

As a guest curator of the Museum of Natural Selection, I have been collecting things that I find in this tiny wilderness and wading in to place them in the drawers. Here is a list of the initial contents:

  1. a plastic lobster
  2. a clear bottle with gold foil on the neck
  3. a small brown bottle with a label that says “Millesime by Creed Unisex”
  4. an air freshener in the shape of a pine tree that says “Black Ice”
  5. a white rock the size of a fist
  6. a smaller black rock
  7. a green ribbon
  8. a plastic dog leg
  9. a piece of sycamore bark in the shape of a face

I expect the museum’s collection to change as other curators stop to investigate, and as the water rises and falls and brings new acquisitions. Broodthaers spoke of this process:

I think that the artist will only be able to control this process for a short time and, moreover, only in a very general way. Then he loses his hold. The ideas begin to multiply themselves like living cells.

This is the goal, or at least the inevitable end, of art—incubator, lending library, archive of an unclaimed space. If you find it, stop and consider, give and take.

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