Collecting, appropriation, misuse, biopiracy, copyright are all ideas dealt with in the past but in the digital age are leading to a reevaluation of legal, moral and ethical behavior. As past behavior is challenged and the ethics and legality of these practices debated, the digital revolution now exists in this past vacuum, lacking social, moral, ethical, and legal scaffolding. In my work, this all leads me to question my use of the online archive that peers into the private and the public domain but it is murky. I can look to Walter Benjamin who contemplated writing a book of quotes strung together, which he collected habitually, for he regarded quotes as highwaymen ready to rob readers of their convictions. The collection of this online archival imagery emerges in divergent physical manifestations through painting, explorations into daguerreotypes, and digital wallpaper. The historicity of collecting and technological advances juxtaposes these digital archival derived pieces as Edwardian glass cases. All this work, however, is seen through the lens of our cultural vantage, which for the Edwardian case, to quote Margaret Flanders Danby,
Contradictions of intention and meaning expanded beyond the inventor to the enthusiast… the domestic bourgeois cultural reception of Ward’s brilliant innovation reveals a longing for a shortcut on the much more arduous journey back to what might be the original, universal, destination of the imagination – to paradise – garden of perfect beauty, of life everlasting, and best of all of an escape from the burdens of complex knowledge. The Genteel wanted a shortcut to perfection.
Unnatural History: Ward’s Glass Cases Victorian Literature and Culture 2007 35 p641 Cambridge University Press.