Cabinet of Wonder

cabinet of wonder fotoCabinet of Wonder
Art and curiosities at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Exhibition, 2 September – 26 November 2019, at various locations on the campus of VU Amsterdam

Curiosity, wonder at the new, different or, on the contrary, the everyday and the urge to understand the world and nature have been compelling motives for artists and scientists for centuries. In the exhibition “Cabinet of Wonder”, students, artists and curators, guided by their curiosity and fascinations, designed cabinets based on the VU Amsterdam collections.

From art collection to sea monsters
Media, Art, Design and Architecture (MKDA, VU) student Isa Kuijer takes you along on fieldwork in the Cabinet of Wilderness in the Medical Library. Cabinets of curiosities owe their existence to increasing globalisation. In Ziad Abbasov's (Cultural Anthropology, VU) Cabinet of Globalisation, it is a small step to the steppes of Mongolia. Or join Micaela Cabrita da Palma (Curating Art and Cultures, VU) in looking at how, through the ages, science has dealt with the depths of the oceans and the monsters that dwell within them.

The cabinet by artist Niek Hendrix reflects his unique perspective on art history and curiosities. Artist Raoul Deleo presents several of his finds from the amazing world of Terra Ultima. The existing art installation “de Verzameling” (the collection) by Jan van den Dobbelsteen is also part of the exhibition. The cabinet was made in 1998 for VU, and it exposes the limitations of classification and systematics.

Broader perspective
The six cabinets of ‘Cabinet of Wonder’ contain historical and contemporary displays, exhibiting 16th and 17th century interest in the unusual and remarkable, the organisation of new knowledge in the 18th and 19th centuries and the sharing of objects and knowledge in the 20th century. The consequences of this craving for knowledge (and power) are also examined. In the autumn of 2019, the associated programme will include a critical reflection on the context of collecting, from exoticism and the colonial past to the threat to biodiversity. 

Audio tourCabinet of wonder poster (detail)
Each cabinet has its own story. This audio tour, created by students Laura Köpping (MDKA, VU) and Ilse van der Voorn (Liberal arts & sciences, UU), brings the objects to life. Scan the QR code and let yourself be drawn into the world of The Abominable Elephant, the mating dance of Draco Marinus (sea dragon) and more. 

VU collections
In the nearly 140 years of the Vrije Universiteit's existence, researchers have collected a vast array of objects at VU Amsterdam. These range from plants, animals, fossils and minerals to medieval manuscripts, celestial globes and state-of-the-art research equipment. In addition to the University Library's art, map, heritage and antique print collections, the Faculty of Science's education collections were an important source of inspiration for this exhibition.

Are you curious yet? Follow the route that leads you to the cabinets in the various campus buildings, listen to the stories and be amazed!

-    Historic Cabinet, Main Building, first floor, at the entrance to the University Library;
-    Art Cabinet, Main Building, ground floor, diagonally across from the Student Desk;
-    Cabinet of Globalisation, Physics and Mathematics building, ground floor, behind the IT Desk (Wing M);
-    The Collection, Physics and Mathematics building, ground floor, behind the IT Desk (Wing M);
-    Cabinet beneath the Waves, O2 building, next to the main entrance on the ground floor;
-    Cabinet of Wilderness, Amsterdam UMC, VU University Medical Center, in the Medical Library on the ground floor.