Within the enclosures of the menagerie, accompanied by the chirruping of tropical birds and the strong odour of rutting mountain sheep, "The Tropical Collectors" is at odds with its surroundings. Seemingly dumped on a tropical beach is a mountain of field equipment to be used by a team of Victorian-era natural historians. Cages, nets, callipers and candles. Amongst all of this are certain objects which reference the work of Bates, Spruce and Wallace, documenters of the ecology of South America at the time. The irony of the setting is palpable, given that these objects of "discovery" led to capture, categorisation and measurement, reducing the unknown wild to a cuckoo in a cage.
The work of these explorers was great, and here Dion exhibits their methodology as opposed to the resulting findings. For it is the results of scientific research, usually detached from cultural ties, which become bogged down in their institutional context. A discovered tropical bird, becomes a bundle of feathers in a zoo, as opposed to a detailed jigsaw piece in our understanding of ecological webs. In doing so, he reminds the viewer that whilst science can strengthen the foundations of knowledge, it is often misused in the hands of its perpertrators. As such, Dion is wary of those who attempt to present solutions to the ecological crisis in their art: “I’m not one of these artists who is spending a lot of time imagining a better ecological future. I’m more the kind of artist who is holding up a mirror to the present.”