Mark Dion’s work fuses the unlikely disciplines of science and art. Incorporating elements of biology, archaeology, ethnography, and mythology, Dion’s projects examine the ways in which dominant beliefs and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge and the natural world. Previous projects range from excavating ancient and modern artifacts out of the banks of the Thames to creating a marine life laboratory of specimens culled from New York’s Chinatown. With an edge of irony, humor and improvisation, his self-proclaimed “fantastic archaeology” blurs the line between artifact and artwork. The artist questions the distinction between “objective” (rational) scientific methods and “subjective” (irrational) influences, often upending our preconceptions of these categories. The job of the artist, as Dion believes, is to challenge perception and convention through subverting traditional hierarchies.
For the High Line, Dion has designed a field guide and handbook that hovers between fact and fiction, encouraging viewers to question popular ideologies that define today’s “official” history of the elevated park. The text includes “thoughts, musings, and histories,” such as a timeline of events on the High Line, a “concise” guide to the wildlife and illustrated guide to the plants of the area, “Facts, Myths, & Rumors,” and even a “Lost & Found” section. “Facts, Myths & Rumors” is particularly illustrative of Dion’s characteristic oscillation between fact and fiction. The section consists of a list of uncategorized statements; ranging from serious declarations, “the High Line once extended to Spring Street,” to more humorous musings, “the ghost of the West Side Cowboy has been seen and heard around the West 20th Street section of the park.” Dion leaves the viewer to separate truth from myth. Taken as a whole, the text encourages imagination and inquiry rather than dictates fact – asking the viewer to play a role in shaping their own version of history.
Photos Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.