10 February 2011: Visit to Ioannis Vavatsis’ private collection of antique toys and discussion at Partizan
For 20 years now, Mr Vavatsis collects toys and other objects related to children’s life and reality –toys, school books, tests and essays, magazines, health records, family photos… approximately 8000 objects compose this peculiar collection, exhibited in an underground space below the collector’s antiques store. The place is packed with different objects, grouped by kind –dolls, stuffed animals, school books, cars, trains, rocking horses…– occupying shelves, showcases, trunks; without chronological classification, but with tags bearing the year of manufacture, enriched with some (random) information on the history of each object –when available and without epistemological pretense.
The collector has not imposed on himself strict rules on what, of what period or origin. He accumulates objects based on the only rule of their relation to childhood. His only goal, to preserve the memories of that period.
This obvious absence of decision and choice was the main topic of discussion among the Société Anonyme members who attended the visit. Beyond the fascination caused by the great number of curiosities and personal childhood memories that they stir up, the discussion revolved around the necessity of decisions as prerequisites for any collection and the need for a system of categorization and archiving. Artist Lena Athanasopoulou’s concluding remark, I think, puts the whole discussion into perspective and raises a series of questions interesting for the art world: at the end of the day, it is a matter of choice and of what we choose to preserve in open view or hidden –what we chose to see and what we chose to overlook; what we chose to remember and what we chose to forget.
“The preferred life has its set of preferred memories. Voluntary or involuntary – that is, encouraged or discouraged – memories always have a future in mind.” Adam Phillips “The forgetting museum” (http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2005-06-24-phillips-en.html)