The Love Affair, Else-where Part I: People and Things

I have always been fascinated by the relationship of people to things … .

Or more correctly my fascination lies with the way people relate to things: to objects in the world, places and spaces. We invest so much meaning in the things around us, and develop large and elaborate webs of connection between us-and-things, between-things, between things-and-places … and us. On one level, this is (of course) a completely sensible way of understanding the world we perceive around us. We are creatures that rely on our sense perceptions to find our way in the world and make connections and associations between things and our selves – on a fundamental level, this is in order to survive. But this is merely surface. What intrigues me to all distraction – and strikes me as far more vital as a route of inquiry –  is the emotional and psychological idiosyncrasy of humans to associate objects/things, places/spaces with a  much deeper relevance. It amounts to an investment in the phenomenological world that speaks to the need for understanding and connection far beyond simple sensory input.  The human being in the world needs to understand itself as part of a network of connections and interactions that provide sustenance to memory, to the sense of belonging, to community of one description or another.

We see this investment mirrored in language, too: a house is not a home, for example. The phrase “back home” can mean a geographic region, a particular town or city, or a building at a specific address – but in all cases, the emotional notion of ‘home’ is embedded in our understanding of the place/space to which the reference is made. An interesting exercise: begin with the word home, and make a list of other words you associate with home, as quickly as you can. How many entries on that list are names of physical objects? How many are descriptors of emotions? How many of the physical objects named evoked emotional responses, memories, connections of all kinds? In the end, where did this exercise take you mentally and emotionally? If you’re anything like me, you’re left with a fairly extensive, contradictory, and somewhat ambivalent set of words and associations – but for all of that ambivalence (or perhaps because  of it) it’s one powerful list.

In looking back over the development of my work for the last several years, I have come to realize just how integral exploring this idea is to my entire creative process. I suppose in some respects, it comes down to why I make work in the first place – and also very much how I go about it. I am collector, to be sure  – a certain crow or magpie sensibility informs my way of seeing the world, so I find myself picking up odd bits and pieces of things, being captivated by things as diverse as rusty metal bits, newspaper clippings, rocks, bones, vintage hardware, old clocks, historical records and ephemera … the list goes on. And on. In and of themselves, these objects hold no personal resonance for me when I find them (or rarely do) – so what’s the attraction?
a random assortment of stuff I found cluttering my desk ...
I'm sure there's at least one good story in this collection of stuff.
In the end, I think it’s about what’s not there – the absences, the liminality of the places where many of the objects are found, the interruptions in history or narrative that these objects represent. In this sense, the phenomenology of the objects is one of disjunct or at least partial disconnection: although there is a certain narrative continuity in linear time that brings them from the ‘Point A’ of some time in the past to the ‘Point B’ of my hands (and my work), I have no way of knowing most of the in-between time of that object’s relationship to other people and other things. This allows me to create new stories for them and from them, and also construct new threads of connections between object that I have gathered together. They become ”ready-re-mades” I suppose: change the context of a thing and change the meaning, insofar as the conventional narrative of the object is disrupted a second time by my choices in its use and placement in proximity to other things. This is certainly and most obviously the case in the mixed media assemblage work that I create – but this same approach (I have come to realize) informs the work I do in other media. Photography, drawing, sculpture: one way or another, the work deals with objects in space as artifacts of presences-past, or interrupted connections, or attempts to re-establish or re-imagine the relationship between people and things.

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