The urge for humans to classify is instinctual – a need to arrange the world around us into patterns, to form order from chaos, compels us from childhood to death. This desire became formalised in the sciences, and especially so in taxonomy – the placing of creatures and plants into groups. This amassing of knowledge, this killing of life and its entombment in collections, occasionally borders on obsession: the Victorian naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace wrote, on capturing a rare insect, ‘My heart began to beat violently, the blood rushed to my head, and I felt much more like fainting than I have done when in apprehension of immediate death’.
The scientific collection so painstakingly created is traditionally seen as hermetic and privileged – akin to the archive: a repository of preserved knowledge and authority, often institutionalised in museums. But in actuality all collections – personal or institutional – are unstable, and time dissipates that which has been so carefully hoarded; a return to incoherence and entropy.
It is this failure of the collection and its archive that fascinates me. Dust and disintegration are the hallmarks of the fragments of insect collections and documentation depicted in my photographs. These creatures have died twice, first poisoned in killing jars, then turned by time into ruins. What remains are cul-de-sacs: their stored knowledge dissipated, their context lost.