So far the key theme around all of my work this year has been that of our personal relationships and bonds with the objects in our life. While the object itself may contain little value on it’s own, made perhaps of cheap materials or poor quality, it is what the object comes to represent to us an individual that gives it significance and value to us.
My Field project is a clear development conceptually building upon the research and ideas of my Subject project from Christmas, incorporating my research from my dissertation on the ability for two people to form and maintain a continuing bond through the use of objects. It is a development not only in concept, but also in format, continuing with the use of medals in the tradition of immortalising and memorialising a significant person or event, however with the imagery on the medal depicting the object symbolising this event rather than matter itself. It brings to the foreground the unconscious associations that we make with all objects, and exploits the purpose of medals themselves as objects whose entire purpose is to act as a symbolic talisman, allowing for a trigger or re-engagement with memory. We understand them of being representative of their meaning, rather than evaluating them on their physical qualities, which I aim to show is true of all objects in our lives. These qualities of the medal, combined with the ability of the artist book to express and explore memory through imagery and sequence, makes these books the perfect vehicle for demonstrating these personal object relationships to the viewer.
While the term sentimental value or sentimentality is often one which is used to deride or undermine, suggesting it is something to be humoured or tolerated, I argue that this is not the case. Rather than being a sentimental indulgence, it is in fact a critical part of our ability to form and maintain relationships with one another that allows us to also do this with objects.
In many cases the designed function of the object becomes secondary, whether it be practical or decorative, and the object’s primary function then becomes to act as a symbol representing a person, event or experience. Because of this, not only are we able to surround ourselves with reminders of these relationships, we are then able to use them to actively re engage with and develop them.
In the case of mementos, these may serve a variety of different purposes, depending on the nature of the relationship. For example a gift given by a friend which is kept and used often (practically or as decoration) may serve as a reminder and a maintainer of your friendship bond. Despite perhaps not having seen that friend in some time, through engaging with the objects that are representative of them we are able to feel a sense of security.
However, if the object becomes symbolic of a more traumatic relationship, perhaps a parent, an acrimonious break up, or even a deceased loved one , these objects allow for the vital function of resolution. While the person in question may be absent, leaving you unable to continue a dialogue with them and in a state of emotional turmoil. however by engaging with the objects that are representative of them, it not only allows for the relationship to be continued in their absence but in fact gives the opportunity for growth and development. Rather than our internal image of the person being held fixed in time unchanging, as we each inevitably grow through our own constantly ongoing sets of experiences we may then begin to examine these relationships under a new light with a shifted perspective. The object acts as a grounding point, giving us a tangible focal point onto which we can project our phenomenonological experience of re engaging with personal relationships.
A fundamental part of the object’s nature is the ability to carry many layers of meaning, some of which may be codependent being influenced by one another, and others may run parallel independently. The meanings and?values that objects hold are paradoxically both contained within the object’s form and yet only truly exist within our own mind. Many values are able to be inferred and understood from examining an object in isolation, and so inherently something in the nature of that object must be able to communicate these values non verbally, they exist within the object. However the ability for these values to be read and the way in which they are interpreted depends entirely upon the knowledge , experience and values of the viewer. What to one person may very clearly and indisputably be a drinking vessel, to another from a different culture with a contrasting set of values and experiences may identify it as something else, or find it unidentifiable entirely. It is in this way then that the object’s nature exists only within ourselves.
Because of all this ability to become a focusing point for a multitude of meanings and values, which can be expressed or interpreted wordlessly to an individual, they are fundamental to our formation of self. We define ourselves through the objects we surround ourselves with, and signal to others our values and personalities.
It is then through the examination of a collection of personal objects that we may grow to understand a person in their absence, without words. While we may not necessarily always be able to interpret the precise meanings and symbolisms behind each object, we can as a viewer still understand that it holds some degree of value to the person merely in its presence. While we may come into contact with millions of objects within our lifetime, from gifts to disposables to necessities, it is a select few objects that we choose to keep for extended periods of time. Some objects may be kept for a lifetime, others may be kept for years, months or even weeks. In the case of objects that are kept for long periods of time, this is generally due to a strong sentimental attachment that transcends material value. Even objects that are kept out of necessity or convenience may accrue sentimental value over time, simply for the fact they have played a part in our lives for so long. We fundamentally understand that objects share our experience, and become tangible grounded links to phenomenalogical experience across space and time.
It is this ethos of objects as containers, vehicles and expressors of the self that I explore in my work. The objects I have chosen to immortalise range from the entirely mundane (spoon, memory stick) to the highly sentimental (necklace, pin badges). In the case of the more important items, these are tied to strong bonds between myself and the people they link to, as well as places and experiences. These objects are personally invaluable to me, and are things I often carry with me or interact with frequently. These most important objects are distinguished by the gold thread binding the books, working off the widely associated understanding of gold, silver and bronze as distinguishers for echelons of value.
The silver bound books represent objects which hold a sentimental value to me, but not so much so that the objects themselves are invaluable and could not be discarded or replaced, if not reluctantly. They are triggers for memory and experience, but the relationships they represent have not so wholly and entirely come to have been embodied in the objects as in the case of the gold tier objects.
The bronze range of objects represents items which have no single relationship attached to them, not tied to a significant person or event, but have become significant in my life through their continued presence and use. These objects are linked largely to both routine and place, focused around my university life which understandably has been the focal point of all my routines and actions within the past year. These involve the process of walking, to and around the uni, with my memory stick; an object which I very rarely use in a functional sense but that has become almost like a talisman. A spoon, which has become bent with use attempting to chisel out my solidified instant tea which I rotate between, and often hold the spoon in my mouth absent mindedly. Then finally the origami crane, which was made by a coursemate who had put one on the desk of everyone in our year. These for the most part, remained on everybody’s desk for the next couple of months, and each being displayed and making itself at home in each person’s belongings. To me, these cranes spoke of the place and experience of university, and the community of the course, as well as being reflective of each person’s individual space.
Fundamentally, my work expresses the emotional engagements between the individual and the object, relating to their on personal experience, as well as the object’s ability to then express this and other personal values to others.