My PhD, Cultural Mulch, was an investigation into collectors who create collections of mass-produced objects and of the potential significance of those objects in relation to consumer culture. It was also a study of my own collecting behaviour.
It comprised four components: a thesis, a studio report, a website called Turnstile and an exhibition called There are too many things in the cupboard. I was awarded a three-year Australian National University PhD Scholarship by the Faculty of Arts.
In Things: A Story of the Sixties (1990) Georges Perec discusses, among other things, the futility of objects. New objects, fads and fashions come and go everyday, and everyday old ones are discarded. Emerging from the futility of rampant, unthinking consumerism valuable collections can surface. To some degree the question posed by my research is not why someone collects or why one object grabs attention and another does not, but rather the significance of what remains. What do collections of objects infer about the interests of society from the late twentieth century through to now?
Stretching 26.25 metres wide and soaring 4.5 high, There are too many things in the cupboard comprised 3,254 images.
The exhibition concluded with Five or Free, an audience participatory event designed to begin the deinstallation process and to give people the opportunity to own their favourite images.