Gathering Being: On Collecting and Making. Part 3 of 5: Attraction and Time

Published: 22.07.2021
Pravu Mazumdar
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In March/April 2020, an exhibition of works by ten artists was hosted by Gallery Meme in Seoul, seven of them from Korea and three from Denmark. The exhibition was curated by Bogki Min, Professor at the Seoul National University College of Fine Arts, who was also one of the participating artists. The curatorial concept was to reveal the role of collecting in the process of making. In the following, I would like to unfold some thoughts on collecting as an inherently human practice and explore, how such an ancient practice, which persists unabated in contemporary societies, is interpreted in this rather exceptional curatorial experiment.

The text will be presented in five successive parts, starting out with a few theoretical observations in the first two sections: Part I and Part II, and proceeding to discuss the exhibits and their makers in Part III, Part IV, and Part V.

At this point, I would like to thank Amador Bertomeu and Leo Caballero of Klimt02 for their unwavering generosity and support throughout the years of our cooperation. Working with them has been practically indistinguishable from friendship.
Part III: Attraction and time

6. The art of being attracted: Janne Krogh Hansen / Helen Clara Hemsley


Even a cursory glance at the exhibition FROM COLLECT reveals the twofold question embodied by each individual exhibit: (1) What is a collection? (2) What is the role of collecting in the process of making an object? As we move from piece to piece, the order of exhibits functions as a phenomenotechnical apparatus, and each exhibit as an optical device revealing a specific aspect of the twin categories of collection and collecting.


One such aspect is the instant of attraction that precedes the selection of a thing as a member of a collection. Such an aspect seems to be central to the work of Janne Krogh Hansen, in which stones are collected from a variety of sources and then polished, cut, coloured and assembled to yield a jewellery that consists in a collection of materials and shapes. The only criterion for selecting the stones is the sheer fact of being attracted to them. The process of attraction unfolds as a subjective response to the appearance or texture of the stones and is dictated by the mood of an instant or by biographical or genealogical factors. The very fact that the source of a stone is the collection inherited from one’s grandfather can constitute its value and appeal. But a stone can also count as valuable due to the simple and inexplicable fact that it attracts the maker as it lies on a beach, a driveway or in a glass vitrine in a shop.

Janne Krogh Hansen stones collection.

However, the force of attraction can also be visible as a relation of affinity between the stones themselves, so that their collection in a neckpiece can be read as a document of their mutual attraction. In the pieces titled Cohesion, raw and cut stones are positioned within the aesthetic taxonomy of each piece. Their proximity is dictated by their mutual attraction, based on their difference as raw or cut, which in its turn refers to the opposition between nature and industrialism.

Janne Krogh Hansen, Cohesion bluish, 935 silver, paint, lacquer, cut and raw stones, 2020.
Janne Krogh Hansen, Cohesion reddish, 999 silver, paint, lacquer, cut and raw stones, 2020.

Such pieces, having been composed as collections, are thus based on instants of attraction, either between their individual parts or between their parts and their maker. In our daily lives, we are constantly exposed to an environment of things exercising their forces of attraction or repulsion on us or on each other. Such forces can be manipulated, reinforced, inverted by the dispositives of consumerism, as the discourse of advertisement illustrates on a daily basis. The impact of such dispositives on our personal spheres and styles of being attracted or repelled, is a major force constantly affecting human existence in capitalist societies. In Janne Krogh Hansen’s works, a triangle of attractions between a base of selectable things and the apex of the collecting mind determines at every instant the entry of new objects into the collections that constitute the single pieces. The act of gathering is essentially a meditation on the moment of attraction and functions as a protective shield from the bombardment of consumerist strategies of attraction.


Attraction plays also a central role in Helen Clara Hemsley’s work. But the range of materials that are gathered and assembled in the making of the pieces, has been subjected to a substantial extension.

Helen Clara Hemsley found objects collection.

Helen Clara Hemsley, All of this, and more 1, Necklace, Embroidery fabric, knitting yarn, crochet yarn, sewing thread and ribbon, 400 x 80 x 5 mm, 2020.

Helen Clara Hemsley, All of this, and more 2, Ring, Embroidery fabric, knitting yarn, crochet yarn, sewing thread and semi-precious stone/fibreglass ring, 44 x 55 x 44 mm, 2020.

These include not only semi-precious stones or everyday materials like knitting yarns, sewing thread, fibreglass, metal, but also words strung together to titles like “A grandmother’s goodwill rewarded” / “I am a like hunter” / “Getting all your rows on a duck” / “All eyes on you” / “All of this and more”, capable of provoking responses or evoking narratives or merely influencing the perception of the piece at hand. The process of gathering, triggered by a keen observation of daily life, is guided by the principle of a primordial and fateful attraction to certain things. Such elementary instants of attraction generate collections of materials that are then combined through techniques like embroidery, crocheting, knitting to yield patterns or recognisable figures like ducks, antlers, leopards. As the materials join to create visual meaning, the words join to produce the verbal meaning of the work titles, which in their turn have the potential to fuse the sensual impressions emanated by a work into a narrative.

7. Resisting time: Soohyun Chou / Woojung Kim


The works of Soohyun Chou and Woojung Kim focus on the temporal dimension of collections. As already mentioned: a thing can cross the threshold of a collection to become immobilised as an object. One of the functions of a collection is resisting time, since immobilising a thing amounts to conserving it, and conserving it implies conserving the past inscribed into it. The concrete process of applying the act of gathering to freeze time depends obviously on the specificities of what is being gathered to form a collection.


For the exhibit From Tools by Soohyun Chou, the thing collected to create the piece is an old ceramic board used in past acts of making and bearing testimony to the past in the form of holes and stains left behind by (1) the work process and (2) the mode of being characteristic of the maker. The ceramic board illustrates the dual process of the traversal of a thing through the boundary of a collection and its transformation into an object of the collection. The board thus functions as a metaphor of memory. It functions as an archive of the scars of past work and embodies the past as a temporal artefact and a collectable object emerging from the edited traces of past work on a material surface. Creating an object for a collection of exhibits thus becomes an act of gathering and visualising the traces of past work, gathering and visualising the materiality of memory and, ultimately, gathering one’s own (past) being to yield a piece of jewellery as a wearable form. One reanimates whatever one has gleaned and gathered of oneself, of one’s dead and bygone moments, in order to wear it as a collection and a piece and blaze into appearance.

Soohyun Chou collected objects.

Soohyun Chou, From Tools I, 925 silver, ceramic supporting board, 70 x 30 x 5mm, 2020.

Soohyun Chou, From Tools II, 925 silver, soldering supporting board, 50 x 50 x 15mm, 2020.


Woojung Kim’s piece also focusses on resisting time. But it takes a different path. Collecting and drying fallen petals is part of an instinctive drive to resist transience by creating a protected zone in which the objects can be sealed up against time to acquire a value that accrues in the process. One can safely say that all collections are something like a zone of protection from time, employing a technology of resisting transience and generating value. The archaic treasure trove protects objects from transience and envelopes them, as it were, in a blanket of value. Modern economies employ a network of equivalences regulated by money, ensuring that the identity of value is transferred from a transient material form to a non-transient equivalent form. Even if my 20 Dollar bill gets torn, I can always obtain a fresh bill from a bank and expect to continue to possess 20 Dollars like I did before the tear. I expect my possession to remain my collection of imperishable values. Thus a collection not only articulates the ancient need for status and power as in the case of the archaic treasure trove, which, as mentioned above, can figure as a genealogical precursor of all money and value. A collection also repeats archaic strategies of resisting time.
Woojung Kim takes a thing like a plucked and dying flower and breaks it down into two components: the perishable body, and its imperishable Platonic form. The body is hung out to dry, till it attains the semblance of the imperishable, but does ultimately become dust at some point of time. The form is retrieved and recreated as an image which is printed on the back of a grid and conserved as a reflection in the endless loop of a mirror space. Mourning past life thus transforms into a process of analysing life into a perishable and an imperishable component and conserving both as elements of a collection.

Woojung Kim dry falling petals collection.

Woojung Kim, Off-Spring, Brooch, Acrylic, Stainless steel, 60 x 72 x 8 mm, 2020.

Woojung Kim, Off-Spring, Brooch, Acrylic, Stainless steel, 60 x 72 x 8 mm, 2020.

Woojung Kim, Off-Spring, Brooch, Acrylic, Stainless steel, 60 x 72 x 8 mm, 2020.


About the author

Pravu Mazumdar
 studied physics in New Delhi and Munich and has a doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Stuttgart. He writes in German and English, and his books, which use themes like migration and consumerism to unfold a diagnosis of modernity, are closely connected to French Postmodernism, in particular, the philosophy of Michel Foucault. His book on jewellery was published in 2015 under the title: "Gold und Geist: Prolegomena zu einer Philosophie des Schmucks" (“Gold and Mind: Prolegomena towards a Philosophy of Jewellery”), Berlin: Matthes & Seitz.