The Ontological Museum and Thinking About Collecting

So I thought I would mention a little bit of back story about the Ontological Museum. In 1977 -78 when I lived in Saint Louis, MO and was in my third year of college I had the great opportunity to visit Claus Oldenburg's Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing. I'll include a link to the MOMA's 2 minute video on the Museum.

This was an epic, eye opening experience for me at the age of 20-21 and I was completely fascinated and influenced by this installation of small found objects along side a number of small art objects created by Oldenburg in this dark very intimate walk through inside of a mouse head. The Ray Gun Wing was also amazing with his collection of ray gun objects often just sticks in the rough shape of a pistol.

The whole thing was an installed environment with in a gallery of the museum. It seems to me like it was in the front lobby of the museum if I remember correctly. At any rate, the idea of creating this intimate enclosed space as a viewing area of a collection of objects, most of which were just found on the street, in dumpsters or collected from junk shops perhaps. I still have the original catalog and in those days as a poverty stricken art student, to drop the money for a museum catalog was a very big deal and a big sacrifice so that should give you a clue as to how impactful that exhibition had been for me.

Fast forward to the beginning of the internet and my first used computer so that I could explore it. The internet, right from the first, was in my opinion at the time, the most earth shattering event that had happened in my lifetime. I saw the amazing implications of what it might lead to and I can say it has greatly exceeded my wildest dreams at that time.

At any rate, I thought to myself, what can I, as an artist, do with this amazing new frontier? Several of us had already invented The International Post Dogmatist Group in 1987 - our alternative to Post Modernism - and the internet was the perfect place for us to build a conceptual empire. In conversation with Patrick O'Kelly - one of the co-founders - the idea of the Museum was born and the name Ontological Museum was suggested by Patrick which he had heard from a former fellow student and the first and, as far as I know, only avowed anti-Post-Dogmatist, Ed Benson who, at that time was living Hong Kong. So using Ed's name The Ontological Museum of the International Post Dogmatist Group we were off and running much to Benson's consternation I understand.

I then started thinking to myself, I should make a museum online about a subject that was of personal interest to me and so a couple of years later I founded the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction - I believe in 1996 maybe? Memory is fuzzy that far back. At a certain point the collection started to grow and now 25 years later it is in the tens of thousands of objects, documents, collages, assemblages, mail art, fluxus art, vernacular photography, small press publications, etc.

While something like the Mouse Museum, that could be thought of as an assemblage or installation, might have been my initial inspiration, with the internet, the collection doesn't use up any actual space digitally but is quite sprawling as many thousands of original and physical works take up a lot of storage space and that doesn't count the need of the proper storage furniture, office space, staging area or shipping and receiving, not to mention enough room for imaging equipment - high end cameras, lights, etc. to photograph and document the collection for online presentation. And this is not taking into account any actual public exhibition space. It has always been the idea to use other spaces of opportunity to mount exhibitions. However, you still need a lot of room just to get an exhibition ready to be shipped and displayed. While we have mounted numerous shows over the last 10-12 years, we are still trying to get to the point of having traveling exhibitions of focused elements from the collection.

Hence this online gift shop, we are hoping that people like you will be interested in purchasing high quality prints of works in the collection to help us raise the needed funding to keep the ball rolling. And if you don't see anything you need just now maybe you would like to become a subscriber. In which case, <GO HERE>

Some of the displays in the Mouse Museum of Claus Oldenburg