Mario Wagner Bucks the Burden of Modern Collecting
Humans are collectors. We like to catalogue and own, bringing each item together to create a full set. Part of that compulsion is to own a full array of something beautiful, to house that beauty and literally capture a part of it. The other side is the chase, the journey of hunting down every last piece, no matter where it’s hiding. For those that love to collect, and love to hunt, eBay offers access to millions of users who are looking to buy or sell some of the most unique and obscure pieces in the world. Their newest initiative, "Live Auctions," opens up the normally closed world of art auctions to eBay's already vast community. This is a fresh way for everyone, from art world newbies to the well seasoned, get access to galleries and work that was previously difficult to find.
To illustrate the new openness "Live Auctions" is working towards, eBay tapped Mario Wagner for an interactive, live installation in New York City. Culling images from Instagram using the tag #eBayArtForAll, Mario printed off hundreds of images from the crowd sourcing and incorporated them into his huge installation. He did this under the eyes of anyone who came to watch. It was the literal creation of a new collection, as each photograph was added to the wall it created the first version of a complete catalogue of this original piece. That impulse to collect is something that Mario understands himself. “When you travel you realize how little you need. You can have so much digital nowadays that you don’t need the weight of the physical stuff,” he says. “I have a folder on my computer that is inspiration images, and on my phone when I walk around and take photos.” Not every collection takes up physical space. But Mario’s does take up space, both on his devices and in his mind. “I think it’s the idea of ‘Oh, I don’t want to lose it. If I let it get away, I’ll never find it again.’ If it’s in a folder, I could find it easier.” Collections make us feel safe. Like we’re taking and keeping a part of our human experience.
As much as we’re constantly cataloguing and collecting our human experience using our devices, sometimes they can be a filter to a full experience. Nary does a week go by without some intellectual admonishment that current generations spend too much time looking at screens, or experiencing our lives only through Instagram filters and videos. But Mario wishes those critics would put it in context. “It’s not negative, that’s how we are now,” he says. “Parents probably thought we were negative when we were walking around with Walkmen.” Every innovation changes the way we interact. Every innovation shifts life experience. And every new way will seem strange, until the next appears.
The irony to collecting is sometimes we forget that our collections are there. When they’re safely tucked away we don’t have to consider them anyway. They’re locked up where they can’t be lost, but can be frequently forgotten. Mario sometimes forgets about his own collection of inspiration, “If I do some illustration or a project, afterwards sometimes I’ll go back and say, ‘Oh shit, I could have added that idea to it!’” It all depends on how we interact with our experience and how far we want to carry it with us. As Mario said before, sometimes collections can be a burden if you have to carry them around forever. The key is figuring out when to let go. When Mario sees something amazing, he relishes in it, experiences it, absorbs it. And then he lets it go. “I don’t have any connection when I’m done,” he explains. As our worlds become digital we have the option to collect and experience, but that doesn’t mean we have to weighted down forever. Every moment counts, but it doesn’t have to be burden.