According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to catalogue is to 'make a systematic list of (items of the same type)' (Oxforddictionaries.com, 2015). In the art world, collections are organised and displayed with a particular function in mind. Exhibitions are meticulously designed for the artworks to be approached in a specific way. The environment housing the exhibition is painstakingly structured, and the works are placed precisely to create a dialogue throughout. In this essay I will discuss and examine the ideas of John Berger and the intentions of Jim Ede and how they explore cataloguing through object analysis.
In 1972 John Berger, an English novelist, painter, and art critic, broadcast a four part BBC series titled 'Ways of seeing', in which he explores the relationship between language and perspective. In the text accompanying the series, Berger opens with 'Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognises before it can speak.' (Ways of seeing, 1972), suggesting that how we see things is determined by our knowledge of them. Having established that we see first and then use words to explain what we know, Berger goes on to say that 'what we know or what we believe' (Ways of seeing, 1972) affects the way that we see things. This dynamic relationship between seeing and identification develops into a system in which our past experiences and understanding completely alter the way in which we see things, 'We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves' (Ways of seeing, 1972). This is, what I believe, to be the very beginning of how we use object analysis to catalogue art and artefacts. Our past experiences, ideas and knowledge of objects and how they relate to us personally, allows us to categorise them and group them together. An example of this comes from a popular Berger quote – 'Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography.