It happened a long time ago. Several years after the final of the three Merzbaus, the one constructed by Kurt Schwitters in Ambleside in the North of England, comprising “everything he loved”, had fallen down.  At the time, Collyer brothers had still been adding to their favourite collection at house 2077 Fifth  Avenue, Manhattan.

The accident happened in March 1947. Langley must have been caught in one of the booby traps he himself laid. He died in a passage leading through an assortment of items, including: baby carriages, a doll carriage, rusted bicycles, old food, potato peelers, a collection of guns, glass chandeliers, bowling balls, camera equipment, the folding top of a horse-drawn carriage, a sawhorse, three dressmaking dummies, painted portraits, pinup girl photos, plaster busts, rusty bed springs, the kerosene stove, a child’s chair, more than 25,000 books, human organs pickled in jars, eight live cats, the chassis of the old Model T, tapestries, hundreds of yards of unused silks and fabric, clocks, 14 pianos, a clavichord, organs, banjos, violins, bugles, accordions, a gramophone and records, and countless bundles of newspapers and magazines… and many, many other things.

The collection went out of control. Blind and paralyzed, Homer couldn’t summon help. He died a few days later. It took several more days for the police, called by neighbours, to find the bodies. The Collyer brothers’ story is part of the urban legend. There is a park where their house used to be, named for the brothers. The files on the case have dispersed.

The streets in New Amsterdam were planned to form a regular grid. As time went by, the city got out of control. Today, it is one of the most densely populated places on earth.

It takes your breath away. They say that living space is sublimation of the state of your mind. New York living spaces grow out of form, they spread like favelas, they expand. Extensions are built – blind nooks, windowless sleeping rooms… In the former Knitting Factory artists have come to live. People devote their time to “urban gardening” on roofs and in hollows among building. Newcomers cannot shake off an obsessive feeling of déjà vu. There are piles of rubbish in a neighbouring district. The vest-pocket Collyer Brother Park is one of many places in NYC dedicated to local community.

A small patch cultivated by local volunteers to commemorate an “abandoned” story about loneliness, passion, incomprehension and imprisonment… Collyer’s house became transformed from private space into public space, from house into park, from closeness into openness, from individual isolation into collective creation of a community. How are stories commemorated in former New Amsterdam nowadays?

Weblog (www.theendofcollection.wordpress.com)

The website is long-term project where particular stages of my research are recorded. It is a story of NYC space and, at the same time, about collections.

Theendofcollection is indeed a collection: a collection of facts, stories, everyday practices, quotations and other texts. Sometimes, I repost the content of another user’s posts. It begins with an attempt to impose order on chaos, to compile and arrange collections, and is going to culminate in madness, obsession, compulsively crammed living spaces, self-destructive habits and, finally, escape. It scrutinizes the nature of the phenomenon of collecting as well as the very thin borderline between the process of collecting and common hoarding. “Collection” is organized around the following categories: abandon / abandonment, architecture, chaos, collection, Collyer brothers, déjà vu / jamais vu, excess, food, hole / digging, house, list, noise, NYC, space. The categories constitute a sort of glossary.

About Joanka Zielinska

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