Rachel Grobstein

My work is a playful investigation of invented taxonomies, suggesting the pathos of organizing information into legible systems.

It is about metamorphosis, time passing, natural life cycles, waste management, cheesy nostalgia, ashes and dust. The pieces include miniature and life-size collections of objects remade or reinvented by hand. I’m motivated by the desire to draw attention to familiar things often overlooked out of habit, and to raise questions about value.

Many of the pieces were inspired by found trash (mostly paper ephemera) and include instructions, boxes in various stages of flatness, diapers, self- help books, and precarious piles of giveaways and garbage. I was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s piece "The Unhappy Readymade", in which he instructed his sister to hang a geometry textbook on a laundry line as a wedding present, exposing the ‘facts of life’ to the elements. For me, there was

a perverse logic in inverting the readymade status of unhappy objects back to handmade, to reassert longing and intimacy. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the beat-up instruction manuals and textbooks in particular, those discarded relics of the pre- internet information age. In The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco translates the phrase Habent sua fata libel as: “Books share their fates with their readers.”

Boxes also became crucial in this series for the way they silently articulated contemporary anxieties in simple terms: what’s empty and what’s full, used and new, valued or junk, functional/ functionless? Yet the paper engineers of pop-up books talk of flattened forms in terms of potential energy...

I also think of Slavo Zizek walking through a trash dump in the documentary An Examined Life, when he says: “This is where we should start feeling at home.”


Tearsheet Rachel Grobstein 2018