Inevitably, pieces in the SAI collection undergo further damage, and Krajewska loves how they change over time. The collection includes a diptych drawing made with gunpowder that people tend to smudge with their fingers while handling; when they touch another object afterward, they leave gunpowder fingerprints behind. These kinds of acts connect viewers to the objects, but also tie the objects to one another in a very unique way. Krajewska documents these further degradations in extensive reports on individual objects she keeps in her studio. She sees them as living objects, and her documentation is a history of their lives.
Amid all the meticulous documentation of SAI’s activities and collection, there’s an equally strong element of chance to the project. Krajewska is the first to admit that SAI was formed under extremely serendipitous circumstances: the neighbor who happened to work at AXA Art; AXA Art’s then-CEO Christiane Fischer’s improbable enthusiasm for the project; Columbia University’s initial willingness to support it. The chance encounters didn’t stop there. Ben Lerner wrote about a fictionalized SAI because Krajewska liked how he described art in his first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station (2011), and called him out of the blue to talk about her new project. Wagstaffe met Krajewska because a friend of his had a studio next to hers. Most of SAI’s travelling shows are the result of curators asking to borrow certain objects or the whole collection. And, at the root of the institute, there’s the randomness of how objects get damaged in the first place.
There’s more chance in SAI’s immediate future: In May, Columbia told Krajewska that the SAI collection would have to move out of their storage space before the end of the year, so Krajewska and Wagstaffe are looking into other options—including a dream of transferring everything to permanent display on a houseboat. Krajewska is an avid sailor, so the problems of both storage and shipping would be solved in one fell swoop. Plus, as Wagstaffe pointed out, “marine insurance marked the early days of insurance, and sailing through international waters means even more liberation for the collection.”
Over time, Wagstaffe has become fascinated with the very idea of insurance, which seeks to anticipate that which can’t be foreseen. “We’re up against things that exceed our ability to change them,” he said. “There’s a strangeness in humans trying to deal with disaster in this very dry language.”