Sorting and Classifying: Borges

Some thoughts on this topic raised by the Wellcome Collection exhibition

  • The act of sorting and classifying feels like it is putting chaotic things into an order they were MEANT to be in – like tidying my desk
  • Actually, sorting and classifying IMPOSES a constructed order on things.

This fictional list of ways of classifying animals by Borges is very funny, and also very serious:

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestial_Emporium_of_Benevolent_Knowledge 

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Making Nature: How we see animals | Wellcome Collection

No mat2017-04-16 01.25.00 amter how you see nature now, you’ll never see it the same way again.

Kicking off a year-long exploration into our relationship with nature, this major exhibition examines what we think, feel and value about other species and the consequences this has for the world around us.

It brings together over 100 fascinating objects from literature, film, taxidermy and photography to reveal the hierarchies in our view of the natural world and consider how these influence our actions, or inactions, towards the planet.

This was a very thought provoking exhibition, and made me think about the human relationship with nature and animals in a new way. Some thoughts:

  • The human urge to sort and classify and label is very strong
  • The way we see ourselves in relation to other living things is CONSTRUCTED by us and thus necessarily places us at the top
  • The relationships have been set up as a hierarchy – Religion? Science?
  • Everything could be sorted and classified in many other ways
  • Once a classification hierarchy has been created is seems as though living things were ‘meant’ to be in those relationships with other living things

Interesting link to EMBO article about classification

See other posts on classification and sorting…