The Collector


Artist Maria Kokunova is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of  this photo essay.  From the project ‘The Collector’To see Maria’s body of work, click on any image.



“In our relation to things, in so far as this relation is constituted by the way of vision, and ordered in the figures of representation, something slips, passes…” Jaque Lacan.



The hero of my project is the Collector – a single white European man, comes from a working-class family, runs a small business, a middle-class consumer. In the personality of the fictional character there are enclosed my personal experience of oniomania * and the processes that stand behind the logic of consumption mechanism. The processes that actually aim at relieving anxiety, overcoming the fear that time is irreversible, and death is inevitable by means of acquiring something, coming into ownership.

The Collector realizes that his character and subjectivity are related to material culture and determined by geographical and historical factors. Thus, he inevitably finds himself built into the capitalist system. However, this knowledge does not help him to stop being dependent on the subjects, institutions, and structures of the society – being object to the object; a part of the OBJECTHOOD.




Commodity abundance and design tricks direct the emotions he gets when touching something into a marketing funnel before he manages to “catch” them. With every new purchase the desire immediately loses its connection with a particular item, is being disposed, slides off the surface of the definition and is transferred to another similar although inaccessible object. According to the psychoanalysis theory it is not the real object that values but a symbolic, temporary lost object.

After a deep self-reflection, the Collector realizes that there is no object of desire. There is only a giant emptiness inside him which cannot be filled; it is melancholy that drives him. He admits personal responsibility for every new purchase and feels guilt-ridden. His inner conflict is getting worse and at the same time he has an opposite feeling of something creepy, obsessive, repetitive: as if some force from the outside feeds the flame of his desire to own something and makes him buy things again and again. The fact that he is liable to that force proves that he does not belong to himself.




My project shows the Collector, his everyday routine. He is not surrounded by auratic objects but rather by carefully picked mass market things, which are beaming with the promise to satisfy our needs and meet our desires.

Through the Bible motives on the engravings of Gustave Dora I am inserting the notion of Noah’s ark. Like Noah builds a new world escaping from the flood – creates a new context – so the Collector in an attempt to hide from the chaos of numerously multiplied forms and the “wave of consumption” constructs and arranges his own isolated world filling it with the things that are not unique, though can deter him for a while.

As post-pandemic post-apocalyptic future seems to be coming at us, he continues to stuff his home with them putting even more effort in it, on his own momentum, desperately, in somewhat ritualistic and repetitive manner thus bringing closer the moment when “the ark” with all the stuff goes to the bottom sputtering in the waves of global overproduction and the waters of melting ice.






*Oniomania (from Greek ὤνιος ṓnios “for sale” and μανία manía “insanity”) – an irresistible–uncontrollable urge, desire to buy things far beyond what is necessary and often which one cannot afford. Associated with manic states. Glossary of Psychiatry, EdwART 2009.

List of references:

  1. Baudrillard J. The System of Objects.
  2. Barth R. Mythologies.
  3. Flusser V. The Shape of Things. Philosophy of Design.
  4. Benjamin W. About Collectors and collecting.
  5. Harman G. The Quadruple Object.
  6. Merleau-Ponty M. Eye and Mind.
  7. Podoroga V. A Question about a Thing.
  8. Kornev V. The Philosophy of Everyday Things.
  9. Stuart S. “Collection. Consumer paradise”. Art magazine number 7, 1995.
  10. Mazin V. In the power of emotions: Letter from Saint-Petersburg. Art magazine No. 108, 2019.
  11. Stepanov D. The Person, and the Thing in the Same Room.
  12. Perec G. Things.

All images and text  © Maria Kokunova



See also:

The Cave

By Maria Kokunova



Edge of Humanity Magazine is an independent nondiscriminatory platform that has no religious, political, financial, or social affiliations.

We are committed to publishing the human condition, the raw diverse global entanglement, with total impartiality.


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