3:43pm (2 notes)
In the Orozco Room at the New School, the conversation on Neomaterialism with cultural critic Noam Yuran focused on brands as these things that are actually made of money, and on money as a social relation that is both material and non-material thing, and on TV as the social factory where brands are being made, and on the production of scarcity through advertisements, and on the Ipad as the emblem of our relation to materials in a reality in which everything can be bought only to find its way to the garbage…..
Over the last four decades we have witnessed processes of dematerialization in various fields: money has been dematerialized with the dissolution of the gold standard, commodities have been dematerialized with the ascendance of brand names, and art practices were dematerialized by the emergence of movements such as conceptual art. Taken together, these processes can serve as a starting point for rethinking materialism. Rather than render the concept of materialism obsolete, they force us to ask whether we are finally able to understand what materialism was really about.
The conversation was organized and presented by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, as part of its 2011-2013 curatorial focus theme Thingness, and in conjunction with the center’s New School class Art & the Political.
Anthropocene is the name for our contemporary unit in the division of geological epochs. This is a man-influenced strata of Earth, dating back to the rise of agriculture and enhanced since the industrial revolution.
Significant Objects: 100 Extraordinary Stories about Ordinary Things is a literary and economic experiment in narrating objects. The back cover asks: “Can a great story transform a worthless trinket into a significant object?” The editors, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, auctioned off thrift-store objects via eBay; for item descriptions, short stories purpose-written by over 200 contributing writers, including Meg Cabot, William Gibson, Ben Greenman, Sheila Heti, Neil LaBute, Jonathan Lethem, Tom McCarthy, Lydia Millet, Jenny Offill, Bruce Sterling, Scarlett Thomas, and Colson Whitehead were substituted.
The objects, purchased for $1.25 a piece on average, sold for nearly $8,000.00 in total. For Glenn and Walker this demonstrated that the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively via its money value – according to them an “unimpressive menagerie of items” was rescued from thrift stores and yard sales by a “highly impressive crew of creative writers” who invented stories about them and by that salvaged them.
In the book one can see each item’s original price in a thrift store (item no. 1 is a spotted dog figurine priced for $1), together with its final price on eBay (after a short story by Curtis Sittenfeld has been added, the item was sold for $17.50). Kitchenware, promotional items, toys, tools, decorations, figurines and novelty items are organized in the book according to five significance categories: Fossils (Objects that bear witness to a vanished era or way of life, including childhood); Talismans (Objects that have magical power, are lucky, or are alive); Idols (Objects of intense contemplation and/or veneration. May be used in rituals); Totems (Objects from the natural world — animal, vegetable, or mineral — that are tutelary spirits); and Evidence (Objects that played a role in a crime or historical event).
The back cover text ends by saying: “The stories created were astonishing, a cavalcade of surprising responses to the challenge of manufacturing significance. Who would have believed that random junk could inspire so much imagination? The founders of the Significant Objects project, that’s who.” This experiment, as much as it is limited in understanding the potential of sentimental value as being no more than a sales pitch (the book includes an appendix with data on the objects based on their significance value, significance type, the narrative mode of their stories and their authors), provides at the same time a telling example of how under Capitalism, exchange value assumes an objective role. As they raise the question of happiness, these supposedly insignificant objects, that lack any apparent use value, remain the most interesting thing in the project.
Original price: $2.99. Final price: $20.50. Story written by Willy Vlautin.
Heather and Ivan Morison’s Journée des Barricades
Various industrial and domestic items
800 x 2100 x 1000cm
Photo: Stephen Rowe
Thanks to Federica Bueti for this reference
Bernard London’s 1932 pamphlet Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence
2011-2013 Vera List Center Fellow Joshua Simon facilitates an open discussion on Neomaterialism as part of The Public School New York. Re-introducing different notions of materialism into the already established conversation on the subjectivity of things, Neomaterialism relates the investigation which the new-materialists have begun, relating it to labor, debt, credit, life-taxes and social organization.
How come symbols behave like materials (“fake” and “real” brands)? Why have commodities become the historical subject (we furnish our world with IKEA or rather we dwell in its world)? Are humans reduced to simply absorbing surpluses (baby diapers are a form of child labor)? How labor has shifted from production to consumption and why is everything we do work (even when we are not employed)?
Taking its subtitle from the events of Occupy The Ports (December 12, 2011), the open discussion touches upon animism and alienation, the overqualified generation and the promise of the Dividual, through recent texts on Neomaterialism by Joshua Simon, published with e-flux journal together with Thorstein Veblen’s 1898 “The Beginning of Ownership”.
February 16, 2012 at 7:30pm
Hanns Eisler Nail Salon (H.E.N.S.), corner of 3rd Ave and Bergen, Brooklyn
8:19am (1 note)