Page, Joanna;

Published On


Page Range

pp. 63–92


  • English

Print Length

30 pages


  • Recent artistic projects
  • Cabinets of curiosities
  • ontological questions
  • art and nature relationship
  • critique of colonialism
  • capitalist accumulation
  • commodification of nature
  • Renaissance cabinets
  • creative entanglings
  • diverse collections
  • eighteenth-century collections
  • Villavicencio's reassemblings
  • microscopes and modern scientific techniques
  • embodied encounters
  • subjective experiences
  • Yuk Hui's cosmotechnics
  • plural accounts
  • technological modernity

2. New Cabinets of Curiosities

  • Joanna Page (author)
Several recent artistic projects have revisited the cabinets of curiosities that were fashionable in Europe in the sixteenth century, predating the more systematized approach to collecting and displaying nature that was to characterize the Enlightenment. Cabinets of curiosities employed visual analogies and other effects to raise ontological questions about the natural world and the relationship between art and nature. Pablo La Padula (Argentina) and Cristian Villavicencio (Ecuador/Spain) interrogate the politics of such collections, developing a critique of the relationships that underpin them, between colonialism, capitalist accumulation, and the commodification of nature. Renaissance cabinets did, however, allow for more creative and diverse entanglings of nature and culture than were permitted in the more systematic collections of the eighteenth century that were to replace them. In his reassemblings of natural history collections, Villavicencio reflects on the link between microscopes (among other technologies of vision) and a commitment to a distanced, “objective” vision that became central to modern scientific techniques. Both La Padula and Villavicencio create opportunities for alternative encounters with the natural world that are embodied and subjective. Like Yuk Hui’s concept of “cosmotechnics,” these allow us to explore “the different relations between the human and technics inherited from different mythologies and cosmologies” and therefore to generate plural accounts of technological modernity.


Joanna Page

Professor of Latin American Studies at University of Cambridge

Joanna Page is Professor of Latin American Studies and the Director of CRASSH (the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of several books on cinema, graphic fiction, literature and visual art in Argentina, Chile, and Latin America more broadly. Many of her research projects focus on the relationship between science and the arts, but her interests also include posthumanism, new materialism, decoloniality and environmental thought in Latin America. Her most recent monograph was Decolonizing Science in Latin American Art (UCL Press, 2021). Other books published in the past few years include Geopolitics, Culture, and the Scientific Imaginary in Latin America (co-edited with María del Pilar Blanco, University Press of Florida, 2020) and Posthumanism and the Graphic Novel in Latin America (co-authored with Edward King, UCL Press, 2017).