Thoughts On Objects
Ordinary objects possess a memory of change over time, and can project the stories that have passed through them from creation, to scars or residue, or the proximity to others within a collection.
I am focused on storytelling, and the way narrative can be translated into static physical forms. Whether we speak of the built or natural environments, the objects we use and handle, or the materials that we consume, interactions with the tangible are reflections of history, contingency and purpose. In our everyday lives, these relationships also determine the behaviors and feelings that, autodidactic, repeated, or inherited, become the basis for individual and cultural identity, social and sentimental significance.
I am interested in the way the material world contributes to and is created from human emotion and behavior. This is large: landscapes and physical environments that contribute to the formation of identity, the way we organize ourselves socially. This is also small: immediate, individual, influencing decisions, activities, and the way we experience, and find value in, time and space.
In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit speaks of shul, the tibetan word for “track” exploring it as “a mark that remains after that which made it has passed by—a footprint[…] the scarred hollow in the ground where a house once stood, the channel worn through a rock where a river runs in flood… the indentation in the grass where an animal slept last night.” The past decade in the Pittsburgh steel suburbs along the Monongahela River, I have been investigating a material history of the area, through abandoned buildings and spaces, left with the detritus of lives that have come and gone, leaving shuls: a shoe lost in the forest, a child’s halloween costumes, blinds, tulips and irises in front of the field where a building once stood, all stories embodied in traces weighed with abandon.
Kabbalistic tradition teaches that all matter, even these lost artifacts, are filled with a holy soul, the nefesh, that binds and fills every surface, the source of its physicality. To me, this “soul” is also based in the time and energy spent in an object’s creation and use; a collection of thoughts, hours, memories ground into it and ground off of into the actions and lives it influenced. The re-use of the object, unearthed or reimagined for its physical properties, is as a prayer to the time and energy infused in its matter.
How can the relationships to objects be visualized, how can the stories contained within objects be communicated and each "thing" be honored beyond its material value? How do objects determine and reflect our individual and cultural identities?
Lindsey Scherloum, 2020