Zoe Mendelson

Psychologies and Spaces of Accumulation: The hoard as collagist methodology (and other stories)

Central Saint Martins

Within the contexts of fine art practice and theory, this practice-based research proposes and interprets new relationships between collecting, disorder and architecture.

My research considers how site-specific practice negotiates differences between hoards and collections by embedding compulsion and clutter into functional space. Drawing from hoards in installation practice (from Schwitter's Merzbau to Michael Landy's Breakdown and works by Ilya Kabakov; Geoffrey Farmer and Sarah Sze), this research relates links between anxiety (compulsion) and architecture (space) to the rationalisation of clutter in contemporary fine art practice.

I am relating the spatial nature of installation art to architecture associated with disorder, hysteria and collection. Through installation practice, I consider how containment is integral to the aesthetics of collection (through storage and protection) and, via Modernism, to disorder. I question ways in which culture reinterprets and mythologises disorder, using hysteria as a historical model.

Through analysis of hoards within fine art practice, this research aims to assert the aesthetic influence clutter and disorder have on collection. I am testing the accommodation of clutter in institutional social space, questioning hoarding and collection through visual and text-based practice. Traits of hoards are referred to in fine art, but often, the term collection is critically applied. An adoption of hoard-like aesthetic traits creates new value systems for compulsion within collection.

Using collage, drawing and objects I am adopting traits of hoarding methodologically: composing images from discarded materials; referencing function within displaced, stockpiled or misused objects; investing inaccessible spaces with distorted depths of field; challenging perceptions of scale and proportion internally (within individual elements) and through composite (large) installation.

I use hoarding methodologically to construct images/texts, then force organisation through aesthetic display. Creating four large-scale permanent artworks at Town Hall Hotel, London, I used site-specificity within a social building to test assumptions about containment of hoards/collections. I reconfigured the space and its storage through architectural and pictorial distortions, creating imbalance and anxiety.

This research considers hoarding as a useful 'irrationalising' aesthetic tool, allowing materials to imply compulsion, irrationality, disorder. Dysfunction is therefore implicit through mis-arrangement.

Research is progressing through writing about the work (rationally;orderly) and within the work (performatively; compulsively), positioning and record-keeping as academic and fictive. I am considering collation and disorder as literary methodologies, relating them to psychoanalytic records; how materials within disorder separate from those assigned to its representation.

A current project 'This Mess is a Place' is in development with Arts Admin and includes a symposium, installation and publication.


Dr Joanne Morra (Director of Studies)

Professor Graham Ellard