Hiddingh Hall, University of Cape Town

This exhibition, curated together with Pippa Skotnes and Gwen van Embden, was designed to coincide with the University of Cape Town’s 175th anniversary. Research for the project entailed trawling through staff, departmental and university collections of material and oral archives, and finding visual structures by which to make these collections speak of the complex and varied activities and histories of the university. The project included the curation of 175 cabinets that brought together disparate collections in a dialogue that celebrated both scholarship and the narrative power of objects. My particular interest in this project was in both the analogies and the taxonomies that could be applied to an encyclopaedic body of objects. In some instances analogies that united various collections (in cabinets titled Effluvia, Capacitance, Positioning and Marking), in other cases taxonomies were created that brought a diverse range of objects together neutralising their disciplinary content and flattened their meaning. An example of the latter was the cabinet Similitudes in which objects were ordered according to formal similarities – long thin things. This display included spiral glass tubes from the Chemistry Department, flutes and clarinets from The S.A. College of Music. These seemingly innocuous objects were activated by the inclusion of an arrow embedded in a skull and a torch labelled as a murder weapon from the forensic pathology collection. This proximate association undermined the innocence of the flute and glass tubes, leaving the viewer with a disrupted sense of expectation