The Fallacy of Objects

‘An object no longer specified by its function is defined by the subject, but in the passionate abstractness of possession all objects are equivalent. And just one object no longer suffices: the fulfillment of the project of possession always means a succession or even a complete series of objects. This is why owning absolutely any object is always so satisfying and so disappointing at the same time: a whole series lies behind any single object, and makes it into a source of anxiety.’

Jean Baudrillard – The System of Objects

Possession is desire. Though abstract in nature, we use the means of possession to alleviate our anxieties, our fear of death, to better understand our sexuality, and to better understand the world we live in. When an object is placed within the hands of a subject, an object is more than just a mere utility, but rather a reflection, a mirror of the subject itself. However, I feel this mirror reflecting our own image is a fallacy.

Consider the last time you purchased a car. Sure you might have been looking for one that was good on gas mileage, had spacious cargo room, or could do 0-60 in 5.3 seconds; but when you remove the initial functionality of the car, what were you looking at? Perhaps you wanted one that was red because red is your favorite color, or you wanted a sporty coupe because you didn’t want to be driving around a soccer mom van. In the end, no matter what car you may have purchased, with utility functions aside, a vast majority of your decision was a reflection of who you are. Or was it?

CHOICE is crucial when understanding our relationship with objects. When we are presented with a vast array of options for a specific object, using a car as the example, we feel as though our decision to pick and choose one car over another is heavily dictated by our own actions. However, let us turn to that sporty red coupe that you just acquired. At the moment of purchase, you may have been thinking that this specific car was tailor made for you. You wanted red, you got red. You wanted a coupe, you got a coupe. However, the options that you chose for your car came from a predetermined set list of options provided by the auto manufacturer; to which anyone else in the world has the ability to pick and choose the exact same make, model, and options for a car as you did. Relatively speaking, nothing is ‘unique’ about the car because all of the options are mass-produced and available to the public. However, possession over the object, i.e. the car, completely abstracts this reality and you inevitably end up feeling good about your purchase and off the lot you go with your new coupe.

Now there is nothing wrong with purchasing a car, and I certainly do love mine, however the question that I have been increasing trying to understand is: are the objects we possess really reflecting who we are, or is everything predetermined?

As someone who collects a vast array of objects, this question has been gnawing at the back of my mind; completely tearing apart my happy-go-lucky attitude toward collecting. I think about the hundreds of Pokémon cards within my personal collection. To me, they are one of a kind, special, unique, valuable, etc. They reflect my love of Pokémon, and my dedication to preserving the nostalgia from when I was a kid. However, I am not the only one in the world who thinks this way about Pokémon cards. Not to mention, the cards are also heavily mass produced; readily available to the public in every shopping center and online store available. Yet, I will probably go out and keep collecting more cards in the future knowing full well that the end of my collection will never come.

Now I do believe that possession is desire, as mentioned early in this post. However, I also feel that possession is an addiction that is constantly being fed by outside sources. If we place so much of our sense of self into the objects we possess, yet the objects made available to us are predetermined by manufacturers, what does that say about our sense of self? Is it real or is it a fallacy?

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Life Through Materiality

‘It is in this sense that the environment of private objects and their possession (collection being the most extreme instance) is a dimension of our life which, though imaginary, is absolutely essential. Just as essential as dreams. It has been said that if dreams could be experimentally suppressed, serious mental disturbances would quickly ensue. It is certainly true that were it possible to deprive people of the regressive escape offered by the game of possession, if they were prevented from giving voice to their controlled, self-addressed discourse, from using objects to recite themselves, as it were, outside time, then mental disorder would surely follow immediately, just as in the case of dream deprivation. We cannot live in absolute singularity, in the irreversibility signaled by the moment of birth, and it is precisely this irreversible movement from birth towards death that objects help us to cope with.’

-Jean Baudrillard

 

Over the last few days I have been completely immersed within writings pertaining to the theory of possession and the system of objects; and I grow more giddy with excitement with every page turn. For the longest time I had been focusing my attention solely on the psychoanalysis of collecting/hoarding; which over time has expanded into an overall analysis of possession and an objects impact on our sense of self. Much of the research that had been conducted on my part was void of any theoretical influences; or at least conscious awareness of theoretical influences. As I read through Jean Baudrillard’s book The System of Objects, much of my first-hand observations into possession have been getting backed up by his insight; most importantly the question – why we hold on to objects.

As I look through the vast array of personal possessions that I will be incorporating into my thesis installation, I can confidently say that I have a better understanding of WHY I am putting these objects into the piece; and how they directly reflect my sense of being. The process of destroying said objects has also been a cathartic experience, and I feel that the contrast between the preservation and deconstruction of my possessions will be a refreshing juxtaposition visually for the viewer. Overall I am quite pleased already prior to the installation being 100% set up; and I am even more excited to start working on future pieces to follow. Till next time.

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One in the Same

It has been a hellacious week to say the least, but it has been one of great insight and growth. On Wednesday I had my first critique of the semester, and the last ‘legit’ group critique before installing for thesis; (the following two critiques will be regarding the installation logistics and post-install.) The critique was quite enjoyable; I was probably the most relaxed that I had ever been for a critique. Due to this, I was able to communicate my work verbally more coherently. As someone who takes medication for anxiety, I am quite pleased with that.

Overall I learned that a majority of my colleagues who participated in my critique were hungry for more insight into ‘myself’ for the installation; aka my personal relationship with the objects, possible object descriptions, my thoughts on the process of destroying my possessions. However, I feel that by injecting myself so heavily into the installation I would diminish what I am actually attempting to communicate. Rather than have the installation be about the processes in which we dictate the value of objects, it would become about me and me only. This was the main reason why I decided to remove any kind of live performance from the piece last semester. It was a nice critique though, and I am glad I was able to show about 1/3 of the installation to my colleagues.

Aside from prepping for this large-scale installation, I have also been doing a lot of planning for post-graduation. Not necessarily regarding jobs per say, but rather a future body of work that I am interested in conducting. Knowing that I will not have a good sized studio to construct my work after graduation, I have been becoming increasingly interested in art that has a short mortality. I see my future undertakings being a continuation of my current work, and will focus on the value of objects and how we dictate them.

Other than that, I don’t have my next critique for three weeks, so I get to spend some time running around gathering resources. March 30th is fast approaching, but at least I am having fun along the way.

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Art Amnesty, Bob & Roberta Smith, MoMA, 2014.

(I have been reading a lot about a project conducted in 2014 by Bob & Roberta Smith called Art AmnestyArtist had the opportunity to throw away their art and swear to never make art again. I found its commentary about art institutions to be quite interesting; especially when regarding how we dictate the monetary value of art.)