Mark Dion: Herbarium Perrine (Marine Algae)


Mark Dion herbarium.jpg

I started looking at the work of Mark Dion as his archaeological approach and appropriation of museum display was brought to mind by our asynchronous seminar in response to Foucault. I realise that I was only aware of his ‘Thames Dig’ piece, it’s really exciting to see that he has created work based on a seaweed collection. ‘Herbarium Perrine’ – a series of 7 photogravures based on Henry Perrine’s herbarium. Perrine (1797-1840) was a doctor, diplomat and botanist, a significant American naturalist who was murdered, his house burned down and herbarium lost in the process. Dion’s prints are a response to this loss, suggesting that they are the remaining fragments of Perrine’s collection.

Dion worked with the art museum of Miami to create this piece, in this short video he discusses the process of collecting and pressing marine algaes. He also talks about the reason for his fascination with seaweed collection.

“What I like about this is that there was a great mania in 19th century for seaweed collections and a lot of people had this kind of amateur fascination with seaweeds. I like very much the way seaweeds have a natural glue in them so they adhere to the paper in a very concrete kind of way and  so they almost approximate drawings so they get a kind of flatness in them that you don’t really see with other plants that you can press.”

Having spent time looking closely at my family seaweed album I can totally understand what he is saying here about the pressed seaweed having the quality of a drawing. A number of the most delicate samples in my album look more like watercolours than a separate material, they have become so imprinted/ ingrained in the paper.

I am interested to see Dion’s use of photogravure, which would have been a popular process in the 19th century and spit bite aquatint which apparently gives a similar effect to a watercolour wash.

This blog by Graphic Studio SF who assist Dion with production of his work gives detailed insight into the painstaking printing process. The close up images show the stunning effect of the a la poupee application of colour.


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