An Ordinall of Alchimy

A collaborative work about consumption and alchemy by Mark Dion and others at Mildred's Lane, the Pennsylvania artist's colony


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Curatorial practice
  • Memory
  • Pedagogy

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Cabinet magazine


Sina Najafi, Aaron Levy


Paul Singh, who donated $999 towards the production budget for the project

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


50% Formal - 50% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "An Ordinall of Alchimy," an exhibition featuring a collaborative work by Mark Dion, Robert Williams, and resident fellows at the Pennsylvania artist's colony Mildred's Lane. The exhibition will be on display at Slought from April 30 through June 14, 2010, with an opening reception on May 5th from 6:30-8:30pm. Please note that in conjunction with the exhibition opening, Slought will host a public presentation by Mark Dion, followed by conversation with Mildred's Lane fellows from 6:30-7:30pm. Fellows Matt Bettine, Joey Cruz, Kathryn Cornelius, Gabriella D'Italia, Scott Jarrett, Aislinn Pentecost-Farren, John Wanzel, Laura E. Wertheim, and Bryan Wilson will discuss their contribution to the "999" project, the role of collaboration, as well as their activities at Mildred's Lane.

Mildred's Lane, founded by Dion and artist J. Morgan Puett in 1998, is a collaboration and long-term experiment in project-, research- and event-based practices, and maintains a living museum and educational institution. The project actively reassembles the terms of artistic exchange and collaboration, hosting international practitioners and institutions collectively engaged in research, theory, production, construction, performance, presentation, and documentation. It is an attempt to collectively create new modes of being in the world, incorporating questions of our relation to the environment, systems of labor, forms of dwelling, and new sociality. These issues are negotiated daily by participants at Mildred's Lane through the rethinking of one's involvements with food, shopping, making, styling, gaming, sleeping, reading, thinking and doing - a curriculum that rethinks being as a practice.

Mildred's Lane is founded in the spirit of other contemporary and historical outpost projects such as Olafur Eliason's Laboratory, Andrea Zittell's High Desert Test Sites, Rirkrit Tiravanija's The Land, Black Mountain College, and Donald Judd's Marfa, TX. In this conversation, Dion will address the history and practices of this experimental institution, whose projects and collaborations include a cemetery by Dion, an Amy Yoes pavilion, and a tree house by Scott Constable, as well as situational events including Allison Smith's Muster, readings from authors such as Nina Burleigh, John Haskell, and Rebecca Purcell, and varied performances and presentations. Upcoming projects include a wildlife habitat project, and the building of an Alchemist's Shack in collaboration with RISD's glass-blowing department.

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This program is organized in partnership with Cabinet as part of their "999" exhibition series. In 2009, Mark Dion, Robert Williams, and the fellows at Mildred's Lane were invited by Cabinet to participate in the series. The "999" exhibition series invites artists to assemble work under a single constraint: everything installed in the gallery must have been acquired on Ebay for a total of less than $999. The exhibition will first be presented at Cabinet in Brooklyn, NY from March 30-April 17th. Once installed at Slought, the contents of will be offered for sale as a single item, once again on Ebay.

For "An Ordinall of Alchimy" the artists used these constraints to explore the theme of alchemical transformation. They assembled a collection of objects based on the seven basic processes of practical alchemy: Calcination, Fixation, Solution, Distillation, Sublimation, Separation, and Projection. The resulting exhibition, unique in its collaborative model, consists of the sculpture formed by this process of collection. The exhibition also includes a projection displaying the items on sale once again at Ebay, in order to emphasize the constraint of the project as well as the origins of these objects subjected to "alchemical" transformation by the artists.

Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. He received a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between objective (rational) scientific methods and subjective (irrational) influences. The artist's spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkabinetts of the 16th Century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.

Dion has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001). He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003); and Tate Gallery, London (1999). Neukom Vivarium (2006), a permanent outdoor installation and learning lab for the Olympic Sculpture Park, was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum.

Additional Media

Download the handout to learn more about the project, eBay items by price and the alchemic process.