Proteotypes: Museum of Matches Book
By Sasha Chavchavadze
“Each of us inherits a museum of matches. Each of us is touched by war. My museum of matches contains a collection of images, snapshots of reality, tossed on the floor like coins of the I-Ching. Out of the seeming chaos I watch for relationships and patterns to form. Past and present meet in odd places.”
From The Museum of Matches published by Proteotypes in June 2011
The following of…thematic designs through one’s life should be…the true purpose of autobiography.” So Vladimir Nabokov declares, just after describing a match game in Speak, Memory. When Sasha Chavchavadze learned that her father, a CIA operative during the Cold War, had played a similar game, she realized that she had found the first of the thematic “matches” she must follow to understand her early life.
Chavchavadze, an interdisciplinary artist, began by building a body of “matchwork,” including a tabletop battlefield with massed armies of kitchen matches and an archive of books, documents, photographs and other relics of the Cold War. First exhibited in New York galleries and published in art and culture magazines, the project evolved into the a one-room Cold War museum open to the public at Proteus Gowanus.
Now published as a book by Proteotypes, Museum of Matches is a “pocket museum” that makes a similar assemblage of visual and thematic forms, opening a window into several historical moments as it searches for matches between past and present: the author as a baby being wheeled through the parks of Berlin as part of her father’s “cover”; her email communication with her father in which she asks him questions about his match game and about his career in the CIA; her stepfather’s job at the nuclear-attack switchboard during the Cuban Missile Crisis; her grandparents’ trajectory from pre-Revolutionary Russia to an old house on Cape Cod; her grandmother’s brief romance at Cambridge with Vladimir Nabokov.