After attending a superhero bowling birthday party, my son and I decided to gallery hop, on our walk home. Our favorite stop was Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, the current exhibit, “The Library for the Birds of New York and Other Marvels” by Mark Dion was really amazing. My son loved how interactive it was and that he was allowed to interact and touch some things.
In the downstairs gallery, there is a large-scale installation, “The Library for the Birds of New York,” where 22 live birds cohabitate with books about bird geography, navigation, and the natural world, plus images and objects related to birds from popular, art historical, scientific, and film sources. In the center of the installation is an 11 foot tall white oak, that Dion has representing the tree of life. Guests are welcomed four at a time to enter into the cage and fully become a part of the installation.
Upstairs, a group of cabinets and sculptures containing found and artist-made cultural objects highlight Dion’s engagement with ideas of presentation and display. We were instantly drawn to the colorful “Cabinet of Marine Debris” comprised of plastic debris harvested while Dion was on an expedition to the North Pacific Gyre off the Alaskan coastline. The bottle caps were arranged in the order of the colors of the rainbow.
Next we explored the “Memory Box”, a shed housing hundreds of natural and found objects, many from Dion’s childhood, meant to elicit memories and associations with the individual exploring. Visitors are welcomed to inspect the contents of the shelves and drawers for an intimate experience with objects not traditionally accessible to museum and gallery visitors. If I would have allowed it my son would have stayed there until every single container was explored, the docent said, no one has yet to complete the task. I was excited to see an original Cootie game, that I love playing when I was a kid amongst the treasures.
Make sure to peek around the corner behind the surrealistic industrial “trophy” case. You will feel like you are entering a dark room, until a neon green glow-in-the-dark cabinet of objects pops out at you. This is Dion’s “Phantom Museum” (Wonder Workshop), the objects are based on illustrations of 16th and 17th century cabinets of curiositie.
Through his formal and symbolic language, Mark Dion offers the viewer an opportunity to engage with cultural objects and the natural world in ways that are both challenging and transformative.
“The Library for the Birds of New York and Other Marvels” will be on exhibit at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Chelsea NYC from February 25 – April 16, 2016.