In the preface of her book Vibrant Matters: A Political Ecology of Things Jane Bennett, a political theorist and philosopher at Johns Hopkins University, opens with the following idea:
This philosophical project [this book] is to think slowly an idea that runs fast through modern heads: the idea of matter as passive stuff, as raw, brute, or inert. This habit of parsing the world into dull matter (it, things) and vibrant life (us, things) is a “partition of the sensible,” to use Jacques Rancière’s phrase. The quarantines of matter and life encourage us to ignore the vitality of matter and the lively powers of material formations, such as the way omega-3 fatty acids can alter human moods or the way our trash is now “away” in landfills but generating lively streams of chemicals and volatile winds of methanes as we speak”.
In the age in which “things” (dull matter) permeates our lives, and some can even say control (i.e. technology), it is not far off to claim that inanimate objects are very much so alive. Objects may not inhale the smell of the earth after it has just rained like us, may not laugh with friends over coffee like us, may not stroll through the afternoon light like us, may not understand the tumultuous political era that we are in like us, but they do form a part of us and become a vital force for us. Whether it be the objects that help with the daily tasks of being humans, the objects that are important for our pleasure, or the objects that we hold dear due to the memories that are embedded into them, objects can be seen as alive just like you or me.
This curatorial project, object / item / material / me, is about exploring that connection; it is about dissecting the critical moment when an object stops just being an inanimate piece of matter and becomes a volatile force for an individual. This project wants to explore how individuals have found themselves through objects. How someone has come to find their racial, sexual, gender or political identity through an object. This project will also explore how an object still has the vital force to continue to grow and change over time and or how it changes with a person as they evolve.
This project will span four months. From May-August, on the 1st and the 15th, I will publish a piece of work (an essay, a photo, a reading) that correlates with the show. And, at each publication, I will introduce an artist that is working with objects. These artists come from various backgrounds; each person went to a different school, each works with different materials, each understands objects differently. But, the connecting factor to these artists is that they have found an identity within objects. Whatever the artists association with an object may be, there is something to be said about the objects that helped foster the idea and message that each of these artists are exploring within their oeuvre.
I want this show to also be understood as each of us being part of a larger collective. Objects have this appeal that draws us near to them. The objects that will be explored in this show may not have significant meaning to you or I, and may only speak to the artist and the community they are part of, but there is an understanding that these objects allow us to learn and grow together through understanding their meaning.
Thank you for being with me as I begin this journey of curating object / item / material / me. This will be the first show that I have curated. My background is in art history, with an emphasis in queer, performance art, and I will be beginning graduate school in the Fall of 2018 to pursue a Masters in Modern and Contemporary Art History. This show will challenge me to think critically of how to be a curator and what it means to be curator for myself; of what it means to work closely with artists and the very material that makes up their practice, and how to tell their story.
With all the best,
Next up: Artist Spotlight - Janelle Miller
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