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29 June 2011

The Potential of the Inanimate Object - 4min 1sec

Winner of the 2011 Carter Memorial Prize.

The video installation The Potential of the Inanimate Object stages a re-performance and re-articulation of the ‘life’ of the everyday object. Kitchen tools from the toaster to the kettle are used on a repetitious daily basis as part of the mundane routine of human consumption. A typical meal for the human involves a performance. A dance. Buttons are pressed, appliances turned on and objects are picked up and put down in an ordered manner to fuel us for the tasks ahead. In The Potential of the Inanimate Object objects are liberated from this world of ordered domesticity. Using the throw of projection this series of videos evokes a new world, a new experience for the object freed from the constrictions of human category and/or use value. It is Simon O’Sullivan that reminds us that ‘in fact art is something much more dangerous: a portal, an access point to another world (our world experienced differently)’. In our world these objects fit to serve a purpose and rigidly linked to human use, The Potential of the Inanimate Object gives space for our world to be experienced differently. This new world is unfamiliar, uncanny and liberating from our familiar world.

My investigation addresses Freudian conceptions of ‘Heimlich and Unheimlich’. Where the word ‘Heimlich’ (‘homely’) describes the familiar made ‘Unheimlich’ (‘unhomely’)meaning the unfamiliar as for instance in the work of Mike Kelley. The object is re-contextualised through a series of new actions and stages a more contemporary articulation of the uncanny, as Kelley writes ‘It is the unfamiliar familiar, the conventional made suspect’. The object when misused can have a suspect presence, the object is taken into greater consideration in its new unfamiliar context with the viewer. The series consists of a number of events linked together in an improbable causal chain. In Fischli and Weiss’s The Way Things Go (1987) a chain reaction of objects sees the object used in a new reordered and inspiring manner. The objects appear to be left to their own devices passing and tossing, setting off their switches as they choose or by another object. In The Potential of the Inanimate Object the familiarity of the object itself is reordered by its actions. The objects set each other off and bounce off each other allowing a break from the ordered kitchen dance choreographed by the human. The object is given a new life and time to play.

After my Exhibition of Video Art: From the Animalistic to the Totally Obscure (Dec 2010) my interest has continued from the estranged familiar to further my own creation of the personal equilibrium of the life of the inanimate object. The objects used are commonly trapped in convention and here are seen in a new light, a new life that exists free from human constraint, cognition and category. We organise the world in terms of our categories of objects and how we use them Micheal Fried states: ‘The object, not the beholder, must remain the centre of focus of the situation’. In an extreme phenomenological sense things also exist as objects in their own right beyond the fact of whether humans exist or not. Robert Morris remarked in the same passage “I wish to emphasize that things in a space with oneself rather than….[that] one is in a space surrounded by things”. Morris emphasises the existence of objects outside the existence of humans. My work exploits this gap as a potential for the re-performance of objects. A new world within our world is articulated for the object.

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