The Sea of Stuff

September 17, 2008

Bottles, cans, clothes, electronics, papers, wheelchairs, drugs, airplanes, boxes, bombs, guns, cabinets, lamps, toys, sinks, buildings, cars, appliances, puzzles. We float in a sea of stuff.

Some things are hand made, but all things are human made and nearly everything has been touched by someone’s hands, maybe many hands. The world is awash in goods. Some of these things are very ephemeral and fleeting, and some have the possibility of unbelievably long life. We are suspended amidst our things.

We amass things around us. These things encircle us in concentric layers of familiarity and meaning. We imbue objects with worth, both of the sentimental variety (this thing is meaningful to me because it was my mother’s, or my child made it, or I found it on the beach), or worth ascribed to it by society (I collect action figures, emeralds, clocks, or pens because I will be able to sell them for as much or more money later on).  Is anything purely utilitarian?

Some things we use daily and barely notice (I pick up the bottle of dish soap and squeeze some out into the sink of hot water, I pick up the sponge, then I pick up the plate and begin to scrub, I rinse the plate off and place it in the dish drainer, or maybe you brush your teeth and never look at your toothbrush), other items we may feel so strongly attached to that we place them above nearly everything else (of course I don’t talk with my brother; after Father died he sold the Wurlitzer with out even talking to me about it, and I never saw any of that money).

The way we use objects, and the care we take of them may or may not be evident to others, but usually things take on a patina of wear. This patina may contain traces of whoever uses it:  fingerprints, DNA, oils, pheromones, and so on.  A great deal of  effort goes in to removing this patina or attempting to preserve, or restore objects to their pristine condition. Are all material things an attempt to overcome death?

How do we determine when something is worn out, or is no longer of use or significance? After something has been of use to us it may be of use to someone else, and we often move things along in an effort to prolong the object’s life or “usefulness”. Even things which were seemingly lost, or broken to shards, can be dug up out of the ground or pieced back together and while the vase may not hold water, it can tell us a great deal about the civilization that came before. Interestingly the patina of wear and age oftentimes increases an object’s worth.

Do objects absorb our energy, thoughts, feelings? Are they altered by less tangible aspects of our beings?

What is it to possess something? Do I simply have use of some stuff for a little while?

Can I destroy something so that it can no longer be used by another? Is this how I know I possess something?

August 6, 2008

untitled (self-portrait #2A)

Paula Lalala, July 2008.

On Viewing Art

July 16, 2008


On Viewing Art.
The different ways to relate to works of art.

Sometimes works of art trigger an emotional response, which may or may not be linked to one’s physical state. If you pay close attention to your physical reaction to art, you may find a quickening pulse, expanding chest, constricting throat, and so on. Occasionally you can be simply drinking in or consumed by the work; this can be described as a transcendent state, or simply existing in an unselfconscious way. You can also respond to works of art via intellectual channels and enjoy thought processes stimulated by artworks. Any of these responses may also be influenced by external circumstance such as the time of day when looking at art, the viewing context (i.e. public or private venue), mood or frame of mind, and so on

One viewing context that influences our perception of an artwork is the history ascribed to it. Another external circumstance that may influence perception is one’s awareness of the intention or thoughts an artist, curator, or another viewer has about the work. Understanding these intentions or thoughts may be further informed by our understanding of who that person was; the story of their life or the influences behind their thoughts or intentions. We frequently conflate our perception of the work of art with the life story of the creator, or the credentials of the artist, critic, or curator. Conversely, with anonymous works we may marvel at the existence of a work of art devoid of any record regarding its creator.

I am an idealist and I believe that the intention of the artist or creator is important, but I also understand works of art to exist separately from their creator’s intentions. The intentions behind the work may inform our perception of the art, but what we bring to the viewing experience also influences our experience of the art.