“Every collection is a theatre of memories, a dramatization and a mise-en-scene of personal and collective pasts, of a remembered childhood and of remembrance after death. It guarantees the presence of these memories through the objects evoking them. It is more even than a symbolic presence: a transubstantiation. The world beyond what we can touch is with us in and through them, and through communion with them it is possible to commune with it and become part of it.”
Blom’s observation regarding collecting holds significant weight. Take for example, my habit of collecting Pokemon cards and their significance to my childhood. With any form of collecting, regardless of what you collect, there is always a string of personal significance present. The items that we collect become the bridge linked to a time that impacted our lives; both good, and yes even bad. Now why would someone collect items associated with a bad experience? The simple answer, as stated in my previous blog post, is control.
Traumatic incidents cut deep scars into our psyche; and the aftermath generally leaves one attempting to regain control of, not only the present, but of the past incident. I recently read a passage within the book titled Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things that demonstrates this desire to regain control through collecting.
The incident that occurred involved a home invasion in which the victim was robbed at gunpoint. After surviving the traumatic experience, the victim began to slowly accumulate newspapers and magazines within their bedroom; the site where the home invasion took place. Collecting became a vehicle, a tool, a means for the victim to regain some form of control reassurance; control that was not present during the home invasion. The accumulating continued to grow in intensity over the following months, until eventually the bedroom was filled floor to ceiling with stuff. The once ordinary bedroom, now consumed by paper and scraps, had transformed into an artificially constructed safe haven for the victim; a safe house essentially, as the victim attempted to make sense of the past incident via collecting. The walls of said bedroom became the containment; the barrier between the valuables on the inside, i.e. the victim, and the dangers of the outside world.
Collecting takes on many shapes and forms. Some are rooted in fond memories of childhood; others stem from more negative and traumatic beginnings. However, wherever the origin starts, the personal experiences imbued into the objects by the collector are always present; the self is never removed from the object. This is why control remains the essence of all collecting.