Founded in New York City in 1904, The Explorers Club “promotes the scientific exploration of land, sea, air, and space.” In an exhibition on view May 9, artist Mark Dion responds to the Club’s mission, turning the focus on the history of exploration itself. Commissioned by The Clark Art Institute, Phantoms of the Clark Expedition reflects on and re-contextualizes founder Robert Sterling Clark’s 1908-09 expedition to Northern China.
Dion has created an array of objects and tools in white paper-maché that echo those used on the Clark mission, now long lost. Dion unsettles the traditional order of historic classification, presenting an alternative way of understanding past explorations. “What I want,” Dion said in a recent article, “is to remind people that human beings are part of natural history.” The ghost-like objects provide both a contemporary critique and subtle celebration of an archaic history. Curator Lisa Corrin says, “His installations link to the biographies of famous explorers and naturalists, but they’re poetic evocations.”
In addition, visitors receive an artist-conceived “field guide” for the installation, which will also highlight the building’s history and the Explorers Club’s collection. The Explorers Club is located at 46 East 70th Street, New York, NY 10021.