The PlanMichael Schmelling

(J&L Books, 2009)

The urge to collect – to study, gather and curate one’s prized specimens — can be all consuming. At times, a single item can become an essential acquisition, but ultimately they all end as footnotes in the eternal abyss that is collecting. The value that we place on objects and the significance they hold in our lives is an arbitrary process, and the distinction between collecting and hoarding can be uncomfortably blurred.

In the United States there are believed to be over three million hoarders, nearly a third of whom have been clinically diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding Disorder. Those afflicted commonly suffer from multiple syndromes, including depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder. Living largely in social isolation, sufferers are characterized by an anxious pathological desire to endlessly source and acquire often-worthless objects, to extreme and perilous states of existence.

Michael Schmelling spent two years following a New York based company tasked with managing the physical and emotional consequences of excessive hoarding. Schmelling documents the evasive events with empathy, intensely cataloguing items preserved in layers of emotional clutter. We’re witnesses to an archeological survey of materialistic excess; the domestic familiarity indicates the constant value we place on objects in our own lives: a perpetual process of distinction between the disposed, used and treasured.

In an age celebrated for its perverse consumption of goods, The Plan stands as a potent notice to the consequences of overconsumption, and the inconsistent sentimental significance that we impart on our processions. In each viewing of The Plan, the inks of the delicate paper stock are transferred to the covers, and slowly this object mimics the anonymous and worthless artifacts it so compellingly documents.

10×10 American Photobook

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