American conceptual artist Mark Dion is fascinated with nature. His art investigates how we collect, present and share natural artifacts and knowledge. Many of Dion’s installations take the form of cabinets of curiosity and examine how these displays can be used to formulate, and possibly manipulate, our conceptions of the natural world. His work often recreates a museum’s display or a researcher’s workspace leaving the viewer to believe they are witnessing scientific rigour first hand. However, Dion’s installations question institutional authority and encourage scrutiny and scepticism. As he says, “The job of the artist is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention.”
The colourful collection of natural objects and specimens shown here is from his 2012 installation Sea Life. It is Dion’s clever use of irony that is actually on display, for the items in the glass containers consist entirely of toys, pet toys, sex toys and car cleaners. His conceptual art reminds us not to take everything we see at face value.