Notes on the object as thing | James Böhm | 2012
Does Jo Addison’s work allude to objects or restage what essentially an object is – a thing? What kind of encounter is staged? What are we actually looking at, or wanting to hold or touch? We encounter them as objects by of way of their ‘thingliness’. What is this thing state? Are we on unfamiliar registers?
A thing has two common trajectories: Expansive – the thing is the essence of the object, once all conceptual schema has been transcended we arrive at the substance of the object; the Thing which holds all properties together; the Thing-for-itself, it’s own cause, outside of the objective connectedness of things; the unknowable Real Thing. Reductive – reduced to a thing; a thing and nothing more; no use value and hence no value for us; that it is just something at all; the Mere Thing.
There is a language of thinghood subsisting and repressed in objects evoked in Addison’s work as much as the language of objects, objects known and to know. In this sense, her objects feel familiar and right.
Why do they feel right? Is this working at the level of intuition? But these objects are activated conceptually – as though they could have, should have , have had or will have a character of purpose. These are defamiliarized everyday objects rather than abstractions of objects. They persist in their specific objecthood – yet without the register of objectivity; of use value, function, causality, etc. A rightness that appeals less to a language of unconscious archetypes than to the everyday encounter with things. Things to pick up, to support, to look at. That this thing should be here and not there. But to find determinations for why, without the language of function – hence, the aesthetic decision of it will look good here; it feels right etc., misses their specific language as a thing: the language which shadows and evades instrumentalized identity. Because every object is also a thing.
This thingliness then, is it merely in a mimetic relation to objects? It’s like an object but it isn’t; it’s like a feeling of an object; it’s like an abstraction; it looks purposeful, etc. We can never say what it is only that it isn’t quite what it looks like. But these are less a parody of objects in general than a specific object displaced. A thing is the most general property of all, yet Addison’s objects resist the generic by being too singular in their construction: their quality of being made – with intention.
Neither entirely abstract nor generic and neither entirely a mimetic shorthand of objects. Yet the thing-object relation persists. A Thing recalling a distant objecthood? (a fragment, a memory) or projecting a proto-objectivity? (a model) In both, the encounter with the thing is subordinated to either a past or future idea-object. But these are present things that aren’t awaiting an objective form. These things are from the present world, of the stuff of things in general and things in themselves, acting upon us and prompting our actions, of what we use, hold, pick up, open, close, find beautiful, find funny etc…..This familiar world is disclosed when objects have been quietly obscured.