I am fascinated by the notion of a ‘souvenir’, as the construction of memory by the tourist industry. I tend to pick up a stone or shell to bring home with me, instead of a man-made artifact or so-called living organisms like a plant or animal. But what is our notion of living, once-living or non-living matter?
A shell is made by a living organism, is the shell itself alive?
A shell is classified as Biota Animalia. Is my shell-cabinet a zoo?
While working I discovered how much I am influenced by traditional representation of nature, of shells!
During the subsurface research called Onland (2019) we found an ‘index fossil’ at a depth of 5.35-6.80 meter, a Scrobicularia plana (platte slijkgaper) in living position, in viva. Should I represent my shell collection in viva?!
As the natural collection seems limitless, at one point in time I decided to mainly focus on the very common scallop (mantelschelp), just because I like them. And they have a rich cultural connotation of pelgrimage and more.
In retrospective, I learned that the family of Pectinidae is large, spread worldwide and exists since eons. Some sources say up to 200 million years ago, the Triassic period. As so-called ‘index fossils’, shells are used to define geological time scales in layered landscapes.
The interesting thing is, that shells are classified as Biota Animalia. A living animal. That brought me to question: A shell is made by a living organism, is the shell itself alive?
Is my shell-cabinet a zoo?
The full classification can be read as poetry:
Classification: Biota Animalia (Kingdom) Mollusca (Phylum) Bivalvia (Class) Autobranchia (Subclass) Pteriomorphia (Infraclass) Pectinida (Order) Pectinoidea (Superfamily) Pectinidae (Family)
See also the wonderful online collection of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands: Mollusca – Bivalvia – Pectinidae
Ex Situ encounters |
Random traces of ecological and historical movements
After years of bringing the shells home to my unsorted shell-cabinet, I started to recognize my own classifications. As seasides are my favorite destinations and landscapes, I scribble down the location and year in which I encountered the shell(s). My first personal classification is, that I encounter the shell myself, by picking it up on a beach, or eating it. I never buy a shell to complement my ‘collection’. I often take a photo on-site of the findings, while being aware that this is an Ex Situ find, washed ashore by the marine currents and waves, or in gastronomic cultivated context. Considering the impact of the force of the sea it is amazing that a shell washes ashore in such interesting timely conditions. Why do some of these Pectinidae have one ‘ear’ – either on the left or right – while some have two ears? Do currents erode one ear of the shell? Or is that ecological evolution? Or are these random traces of historical, marine movements?
(Image to be added: collections of on-site findings; context landscapes)
I started noticing that some shells are alike, look similar, whether found on the same locality and moment, or spread over the world and found at multiple moments. Or they express the notion of time, as being recognized as possible fossil shells. Some have the same colour (or lack of colour), size (whether or not influenced by timing and local conditions, ranging from 2 mm. to 15 cm.) or share a personal narrative, of a holiday or artistic field exploration, or the scallops I ate while sharing a dinner with friends somewhere at some time.
I am not even sure that these findings can all be classified as being part of the wide spread family of Pectinidae. As a ‘collecting’ artist, wonderment triggers me. Feel free to correct me! Also keep in mind, that the wet conditions of a of shell on a shore highlight the fascinating colours the best!
With special thanks to Anne Geene.
Inspiration #1: Kauri
Inspiration #2: Daar-Hier (1999)
Inspiration #3: Reference collection, fossil shells as ‘index fossils’ (2015 – 2019)