Things are all around us, items we have bought, made or wish to own. They hold an inherent aura within them when they are in our possession. We often associate our things with a person, place or time. When I look at everything I have acquired in my house throughout the years, the objects are documentation of my life that only I know the order or value. Once I am gone, my history vanishes and it waits to be reactivated by someone new.
During the mid to late 1800s, collecting objects, especially souvenirs, became popular. This movement paralleled early industrialization and the infancy of mass production. The paper weight was a coveted object and highly collectable. These "dream spheres" could capture a moment frozen forever, both literally and psychologically. Anything could become permanently still within these timeless orbs, which created sentimental time capsules and preserved memories for the individual. I underscore the paper weight as a significant time in our history in relation to the commodification of objects.
In today's world, objects and products are ubiquitous and attempting to navigate one's relationship between things we need and want has become blurry as we live inside two worlds, both the physical and virtual. Often these things are our "dream spheres" and represent the ideal of who we want to be or aspire to be. Objects can become more than just something that represents a special moment personally but also creates one's persona on how they wish to be perceived by society. Within these ideas around objects, the artists below speak to our society's relationship with consumption, mass production, advertisement and social media.
Tag Sale Cosmology by Erica Magrey communicates the expression, "One man's trash is another man's treasure". Using video as the platform, the viewer is presented with objects floating within the screen as once special. This piece speaks to our over saturated market of things where everything is so cheap that they are disposable, creating room to buy more and more. The beauty of this video is how it confronts the awful side of material consumption in a humble way. Giving the objects a variety of new environments mostly surreal creates new purpose for these things.
At first glance, the sculptures by Chris Thorson are seemingly not sculptures at all. They are objects of our vernacular having no meaning yet play a big part in most of our lives. They are things we use but may not ever stop to really see or think about. TV remotes, cigarettes, plastic bags, gloves, shirts, etc. Thorson's sculptures are cultural markers for our society. She creates exact copies of the original where the original is in fact a mass produced product. She singles out these pieces like plastic grocery bags in The Garden, giving each object authority. This bag in the commercial world is identified as the thing that carries your goods out of the store and then is thrown away, but with Thorson's hands, there becomes a new value. The plastic bag on its own as a sculpture appears melancholy and for a moment, almost a relic.
Trey Wright's work draws the viewer in quickly with a glossy editorial presentation. The colors are bright, welcoming and in perfect composition. The mix between abstract and representational elements creates a pleasing dialectical where a narrative seems apparent however there is no beginning nor end. Working within the frame, Wright assembles various detritus found from magazines and the Internet, then tansforms these fragments archaeologically by arranging the pieces to create a non-linear event. The collages are humorous on the surface, like Cut/Copy (rafflessia), but are rooted in how we digest information through all forms of media and advertisement.
Immediately one can recognize Paul van den Hout's piece, 21st Century Nostalgia (YouTube); however upon examining more closely, the image never sharpens up. It's as if the iconic YouTube logo is a low resolution JPEG. What is clear, or maybe not so clear, that this company and others may not truly be what they claim to be. His work brings up questions of how identity is power, yet what is done with this power? Van den Hout's work also examinies how commonplace logos are in the contemporary Internet landscape. With tech companies popping up every day, their logos are what these companies count on for loyalty and to stand out. These images hold value and represent ideas and spaces for today by providing platforms for people to be themselves, or a version of themselves. What happens if and when these companies disappear, where will our other versions of self exist?
Kelly Lynn Jones is an artist living in San Francisco. She is also the owner and director of the shop, residency and publishing house Little Paper Planes. Jones is continuously fascinated with the objects we buy, receive, collect, make and give away.