Benjamin and Harman

I am currently exploring the possibilities of objects as more than just material, considering objects as keys through which we can understand. Transformative items that give insight into how we comprehend culture, art and the world in general. Artist use objects as materials in their practices, gateways into their minds and experience through varying methods from humor to semiotics. Either way an object gives the viewer a way in, a personal connection to the work. Certain objects have more weight to them, I don’t mean physical weight although this is true it is the context, politics and history of objects that give weight not their matter.

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Mass produced objects have less weight to them, a lowly status, throw away objects. In Walter Benjamin ‘Art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ He writes of the sense changes within humanity’s entire mode of existence; the way we look and see the visual work of art has is different now and its consequences remain to be determined. How does human sense perception related to history? Benjamin writes of the loss of the aura through the mechanical reproduction of art itself. The aura for Benjamin represents the originality and authenticity of a work of art that has not been reproduced.

Benjamin writes of the loss of the aura as a loss of a singular authority within the work of art itself. But what comes through in this new space left by the death to the aura? How does the mechanically reproduced work of art manage to make up for this void?

Mass consumption revels in this consequence of the loss of the aura. For Benjamin, a distance from the aura is a good thing. The loss of the aura has the potential to open up the politicization of art, whether or not that opening is detrimental or beneficial is yet to be determined. However, it allows for us to raise political questions in regards to the reproducible image or object which can be used in one way or another.

The relationship between humans and things is complicated yet important, we are increasingly giving objects more and more significance within our lives, giving objects more and more power over us. This has become more evident due to the rise of the digital age, smartphone have taken over our attention, they have essentially become key holes through which we experience the world. Yet when we go to a gallery we are reminded by the no photograph or phone signs that there is a world outside our phones, we are forced to put down our phones and view the work before us through a different lens. In my practice I am tying to take advantage of this and highlight the overlooked, objects that are essential but we don’t consider them so. Objects we use everyday without even thinking like door handles, keys and sponges.

 

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We live in a world of objects, we depend on them for comfort, nutrition and safety, but do these objects exist outside of our needs for them? Does a chair cease to be when no one is sat upon it? Just like the age old argument if a tree falls in a forest with no one there to hear it does it make a sound? The obvious answer is yes. Of course they exist, things cannot just simply disappear into thin air when we don’t need them. It is easy to think that objects blink out of existence when we put them down especially objects we take for granted, ‘essential’ objects that we could not live our lives without. Of course this is not true we could defiantly live without a vast majority of the objects we class as ‘essential.’ Graham Harman argues for the object, with his desire to search for meaning ….. And how objects allow us to access bigger ideas that are beyond the usual associations of their form… he talks about object oriented ontology, using the term object to refer to any entity that cannot be paraphrased in terms of either its components or its effects, stating that all objects are equally objects, objects do not have a higher status than any other they are not defined by size, material or use. Objects surpass us, exceeding its relation, qualities and actions. There is no objects hierarchy for Harman. But I am wondering if this is the case, Latour disagrees he states that we reduce objects upwards  to whatever they modify, transform, perturb or create – thus converting them into actions with nothing left in reserve. Objects become what they do.

I am treating the objects I use as symbols of the domestic. The door handles have a double status of welcoming you in and shutting you out and it is this element that I am interested in exploiting. Through setting the handles onto a wall rather than a door I am inhibiting both these functions and the handle becomes a symbol instead. I don’t know if the sound element is needed, the idea was to create an unexpected element something that juxtaposed when you think will happen creating a strangeness a futility.

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