Mark Dion: The Octagon Room: Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

February 16 - March 15, 2008
Installation Views
Press release

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery is very pleased to present The Octagon Room, a major installation and sculpture project that comprises Mark Dion's fourth solo presentation at the gallery.

Dion’s dynamic and conceptually rigorous art making practice primarily serves as an investigation of the historical methods of representing and organizing the world, with particular sensitivity to man’s sometimes tenuous relationship with nature, society and the environment. Employing scientific conventions of investigation and display in order to deconstruct them, the politics of museum representation have always taken a central role in Dion's practice, and in certain projects the act of realizing the work via pseudo scientific or curatorial endeavors has played a major role.

In The Octagon Room, which takes the form of an architecturally scaled installation, Dion furthers his investigation into the blurred boundaries between art, society, and history, as well as the homogenized methods of their presentation and consumption. Confronting the inherent contradictions between the artifact and the context in which it is displayed, The Octagon Room takes the appearance of a Brutalist styled bunker. However, within the installation the viewer is invited to browse though an abandoned office, the contents of which represent the artist’s own labyrinthine history of the past eight years.


Dion’s decision to utilize the octagon was inspired by the 19th century mania for octagonal buildings, popularized by the American phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler. Fowler championed the merits of octagonal homes over rectangular and square structures in his widely publicized book, The Octagon House: A Home for All. In the end, octagonal houses never took hold and, rather, these eight-sided homes seemed to be the choice of the individualists, standing defiant among their four-sided neighbors.

The imagined provenance of each of the objects in Dion’s arrangement adds up to a staggering sum of experiences. As each speaks of an individual past, collectively they present a complex mosaic, informing our understanding of the overall subject matter and material.  A Wunderkammer both autobiographical and sociological, The Octagon Room takes the nation’s relationship with its own people and its neighbors, and the artist’s status and position within this framework as its foundation.

All installation images above: Photo by Chris Burke