Magic Box

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Magic Box (n.d.). Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Buchholz, New York.

The Magic Box is a unique collection of items that confounds traditional archival or art historical description. It consists of a small box holding 58 unique found items that Wojnarowicz kept under his bed at the time of his death, with a masking taped title affixed to the lid: “Magic Box.” The items include dried flowers, a group of tweezers and nail clippers, a bag of seeds, a single feather in tissue, a Buddha sculpture, a prayer card, a toy grasshopper, and other disparate objects. According to Cynthia Carr, who exhaustively researched Wojnarowicz and interviewed his extended network of friends, family, and lovers, Wojnarowicz never mentioned the Magic Box to friends or write about its significance. She found only one mention of its existence, in a 1988 journal entry that reads “Put Magic Box in installation.” [1] He never did exhibit the items in the box. When the Fales Library & Special Collections acquired the Wojnarowicz Papers, the decision was made to keep the items together, catalogued simply under the series "magic box", with item level descriptions. This series was a priority to document digitally in order to minimize access and photographs can be found on the Fales finding aid.

Conservation and Display

Though never exhibited by Wojnarowicz, “Magic Box” has its own exhibition history. It was included in the artist Julie Ault’s contribution to the 2014 Biennial in an installation titled Afterlife: a constellation, which was expanded for a 2016 exhibition at Galerie Buchholz in New York titled Afterlife. In these installations, Ault combined texts, artworks by other artists, artifacts, and found items. Also included with both installations is a printed out text of an interview between Ault and Marvin Taylor about Wojnarowicz's Magic Box.[2] In these installations, Ault displayed the box and it contents strewn across a plinth under Plexiglas.

Images from The David Wojnarowicz Papers at Fales Library & Special Collections