Every object is the nodal point, the boundary point in the relationship between person and person. Whoever really grasps the object and designs, does so [grasps and designs] not only for the individual man and his desires, but rather grasps and designs the most important thing of all: the relationship between people.”
–Max Taut and Adolf Behne, Bauten und Pläne, Neue Werkkunst (Berlin: Hübsch, 1927), 21. (Translation: Molly Wright Steenson, image originally published in Scuffletown).
Today, we collect objects. Today, we make objects as a way to think through ideas. Today, we operate on objects.
Sometimes, those objects are gizmos. Sometimes, we subject those objects to strategies, oblique or otherwise. I started from “Today We Collect Ads” by Alison and Peter Smithson, 1956, and “The Great Gizmo,” by Reyner Banham, 1965. I then abstracted, subtracted, redacted and reacted.
The following is a set of operations derived from the Smithsons and Banham texts. I’ve included thoughts from e.e. cummings, Walter Benjamin, Adolf Behne, and the reverberations from a South by Southwest panel I moderated with panelists James Bridle, Ben Terrett, Mike Migurski, and Chris Heathcote.
Operating upon objects
Discover the object. Through the act of discovery, it becomes a found object; a raw object; its unearthing an artistic statement in its roughness and rawness. The object becomes an untrenching. The object becomes art.
Leave the object be. In so doing, the folk art potential of the object increases. Or it can be a myth. Either way, the object stays the same.
Tell the object, as one tells a story. Telling the object attaches texture to it. “It does not aim to convey the pure essence of the thing, like information or a report. It sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. Thus traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way the handprints of the potter cling to the clay vessel.” –Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller: Reflections on the Works of Nikolai Leskov,” 91-2.
Depart from the object: jump off the object. Create a different object from this point of departure. The act transforms the object.
Devise and fix an object. Make it into a cheap, reliable, and contingent object, adapted to the need at hand.
Apply cunning to an object. Make it small and self-contained so that it meets desires then and there.
Amplify the social utility of the object over its other characteristics. It will outweigh all of its physical limitations, its heft outweighing its ubiquity.
Put the cunning objects to work. Observe what is left behind: An archeology of “massive infrastructural deposits:” the Pompeiian imprint of the Rust Belt; a “landscape with figures and gadgets.” (Banham)
Operate the object. It will perform.
Domesticate the object. It will live in the home.
Retrieve an object from the past. Apply it in the future.
Extend or compress the object in time.
Reformat the object.
Layer the object.
Collect objects and subject the collection to any other operations listed here.
Organize the collection of objects.Uncollect the collection of objects.
Change the scale of the object. “electrons deify one razorblade/ into a mountain range“
Remove the object from its context.
Remove the object from its infrastructure.
Apply a different infrastructure to the object.
Distribute the object.
Soften the object. Cover the object. Keep the object warm. Chill the object.
Ornament the object. Strip it clean.
Judge the object.
Subject the object.