Exhibition construction

Now that we’re within the last week of our course deadline, it is time to set up the show! After having spent the previous week constructing the space, putting up the walls, painting them white and sanding them when needed, it is now ready for the work to go into them.

As I have already decided in a previous post, I will be using a desk and therefore do not need to worry about constructing specialist plinths or shelves, so it is simply a matter of bringing them into my space.

Sticking with the manner of display which aims to capture and recreate a personal environment that is true to life, I have decided to bring my own desk from my bedroom in order to display my work. This desk, while not being a particularly impressive looking desk (a reasonably cheap, shabby, student desk), is ideal for many reasons. While it is true that the desk itself is not particularly impressive, in the same way as perhaps if I had bought a vintage oak desk to display my work upon, a visually appealing item in itself, it is true to life and reflective of my circumstances. It is a practical desk, for somebody who does not have a large budget, and I feel the act of going out and buying a desk specifically for the display would detract from the notion of it being a slice out of my own life and living environment, it would be artificial. Not only this, but I think the fact that the desk is not too impressive or grandiose means that there is no confusion as to whether or not the desk is a piece of the work itself. Again, if I had displayed the work upon a beautiful oak desk there may be confusion as to whether or not I had in fact constructed that desk, especially as it would be in an exhibition next to people who had constructed their own furniture as part of their work. Despite not being an especially appealing desk, I equally do not think that it is so poorly constructed that it detracts from the work. In fact, after having dressed the desk with the various pieces of work and tools, essentially making it a combination of my desk setting at home and my working desk in the university, I do no think the desk itself will take much of the focus, it is simply a setting for the environment I am constructing. Another positive point about this desk is that it is constructed with both drawers and shelves, which I intend to fill with various sketchbooks and objects, a combination of both process work from my project work and collections of items which decorate my room that have not been memorialised in the books. For example the shelves underneath the desk may have a combination of molds made during the project in construction of the medals, and decorative items (figurines, photographs, objects of personal interest) from my room at home as they would be found, in a slightly ramshackle manner. The drawers equally would contain sketchbooks, but also items simply found in my desk drawers in my day to day life, pens, batteries, stray notes and pieces of paper etc. Through investigation, the viewer will be able to examine not only the work and it’s process, but as with Tracy Emin’s “My Bed”, have a view into my own personal life and environment.

 

With this is mind I began constructing my space, assembling my home desk, and effectively moving the majority of items on my working desk in uni, onto it, recreating my work environment.

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Overall I would say I feel positive about this layout, and it certainly gives the impression of being my personal space. While this is very much at odds with the rest of the show which is constructed of largely white shelves and plinths, I think it is a positive contrast and makes my display clearly defined and demonstrates that this is a deliberate curatorial strategy. Both the medals and  the books are easily accessed, but are arranged in a way that is not too precise and suggests that somebody before them has just been in the process of handling them. The objects are not so precious as to be intimidating. The drawers contain a mixture of sketchbooks, and process work, slightly ajar so as to encourage the viewer to open and investigate them, and the shelves holding various molds. The chair, taken from the studio, has splatters of paint on it which is again fitting with the idea of the working desk of an art student.

With the desk built and in place, I can now start bringing other small items from home to dress it with such as my teapot, figures, and bags of clay

 

 

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Professional Practice: Book Fair

One avenue of pursuing a live application that has been suggested to me is looking at book faires.

My first instinct was to google “Book Fair”, and the top result was London Book Fair 2016.

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However, from looking at the website it’s hard to determine whether or not artist books would be covered, it seems to be a showcase of more standard format books and so I’m unsure whether or not I would be able to apply. Looking under the small heading of “Exhibitor Profile”, the only information that is given is 1,000+ companies from 67 countries around the world. From the giant houses to the smallest independent, publishers of blockbuster novels and academic texts, producers of children’s books and graphic novels, mobile companies, and gaming start-ups.” While it does seem to cover a range of different formats, including children’s books and graphic novels which are more image-based, I’m not sure whether a set of fundamentally art piece based books would be appropriate. The purpose of this fair seems more to promote businesses, rather than to showcase an individual book or set of books, which I am not producing to sell.

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Looking at the exhibiting options, it seems as if what I would be applying for is the “Small Press” package, as I would only require a very small space to be manned by myself

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However, after searching around the website for details and prices, I found that the cost for this (the smallest exhibition space), which would be rented for three days in the week long London Book Fair, cost £1,525 +VAT to apply for. Considering that I am unsure whether or not this fair is the right fit for my work to begin with, and that I am not mass producing or particularly looking to sell my set of books, there is no way in which I can justify the cost of renting a stand for this show.

 

Refining my search to “Art Book Fair” seemed to yield better results, with the top result being Bristol Artists Book Event, a promising title

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However, unfortunately it seems that I have just missed the boat with the event, with it having finished last week. After having looked around the website and seeing no opportunity to apply for the next event (assuming it is more than just a one-off show), and the “What’s on” page has no events relating to artists books to show of. Looking again at the Bristol Artist Book Event page again, there was no contact details specifically relating to this event itself so that I could inquire about whether or not it would run again in future. The email addresses found under the “Contact” section of the website relate to the box office (which I assume covers ticket ordering and inquiring), contact for the shop, cafe, room hire, supporting the gallery, and artist’s proposals. Artist’s proposals however cover a very specific format in which the email is structured, in which you are asking the gallery for funding in order to produce a specific show, and I do not feel this would be relevant for my exhibition inquiries.

 

 

Then I stumbled upon a promising looking twitter account, The London Art Book Fair (@TheLABF). Unfortunately, the show it seemed to be promoting was on last year “10-13 September 2015 at the Whitechapel Gallery. Celebrating the best of international contemporary art publishing.”. Although the show is clearly over, the twitter account itself seems at least semi-active as it had made a post promoting a magazine on the 30th of March, so I figured I may as well send them a message

Following the link from the twitter account to the website The London Art Book Fair, I found reference to previous years of The London Art Book Fair running, which suggests to me it’s an annual event I can potentially apply for this year or the next

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However, the main header of the page only refers back to the 2015 exhibition. Despite the URL of the website being http://londonartbookfair.com/ the website itself seems to be the entire catalogue and upcoming events for the Whitechapel Gallery. Looking around which, I can’t seem to find any information on a book fair in 2016 or beyond. Going back to specifically the book fair page, there is a contact email (as well as the twitter handle, which I have already contacted), so I may as well drop them an email too.

 

 

While looking through my emails, I remembered an email which I sent at the beginning of the year, making inquiries about the BAMS New Medalist Scheme, as the information on their website only referred to applications for the 2014-15 run.

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Janet was very helpful in response to my series of emails, informing me that at that point they had currently not secured funding for the 2016-17 run of the New Medalist Scheme, and that she would email me in the coming months if they had any news in terms of updates and applications.

With several months having passed now, and I haven’t heard anything back from Janet and  the New Medallist website still only containing information on the 2015-16 application, I thought I’d send a short email inquiring about updates

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Hopefully I will hear back soon, but currently all my live applications have hit a dead end.


BAMS – Medal project – Completed photos

To watch the video that goes with these medals, click here
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After many trials and tribulations, my pair of medals is finally completed. During the process I have had many problems and often doubted the design as being unclear or unrepresentative of the notion of intimacy that I’m trying to convey. However, now that they are finished and displayed I think that they do in fact convey this in the way that I imagined they would at the beginning of the design process. I think perhaps part of the problem was due to the nature of sketches being inherently different to the final product in that while they might be accurate representations of the object they are missing something inherent about the quality of an object itself. I think it is perhaps one of the reasons that those I asked had such a difficult time understanding what my medals were trying to express when just looking at sketches and prototypes, as they could not fully visualise the finished outcome in the way that I was.

Another aspect of the physical medals is their display. I had always envisioned the display of the medals as standing side by side.

medals - pair frontWhile I do like this display, and especially the way in which the two hands lean towards each other, it makes it difficult to display the reverse of the medals and that they are meant to be reflections of one another. When taking photographs of the medal (seen at the top of this post) and playing around with display and composition, I placed the medals so that they were standing opposite one another.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI find that this display is much stronger, as not only does it demonstrate the fact that the medals are a pair, it also shows the notion of touch in a much clearer manner. The distance between them not only allows you to see the reverse side, which is then more distinguishable as being made by the hand on the opposite medal, but it also creates a tension, a sense of longing. One of the problems I have been having with the designs and throughout the process was the issue of people not understanding that the imprint on the reverse of one medal, was made by the hand of the other. With this display, when looking at the male hand they are then only able to see the male imprint on the reverse of the opposite medal, and vice versa, and when viewed in this way it is more identifiable that the imprint was made by that set of fingers. I also think with this in mind it is then also more recognisable that the imprint on the reverse is also reflected in the polish on the fingers.

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The polish itself works very well in my opinion, with it being clear yet not strikingly obvious. While it doesn’t necessarily perfectly mimic the exact size and shape of the pattern of the reverse, I do not feel this is a problem as both sides cannot be viewed at once to compare against. I am glad in reflection that I chose to make the “touched” areas polished on top of the patinated hand, rather than patinated on top of a polished hand. I certainly think that the bright shine represents the tingling sensation on the skin much more accurately than the patination.


BAMS – Medal project – More polishing

Thankfully this week the delivery of sanding belts has arrived, so no more filing by hand for me! Using the electric sander I have managed to get the surface a lot more smooth much quicker than I would have been able by hand, and they are now almost free of imperfections.

back of male hand (female imprint)

back of male hand (female imprint)

back of female hand (male imprint)

back of female hand (male imprint)

As well as the back, I also started on polishing the flat surface on the front of the medals, although this took a bit more delicate work using a hand file and a dremel.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs well as polishing the surface, I also decided it would be a good idea to polish the finger nails. This is not for the polished colour, as I plan to patina over the hands again at a later point, but to remove any small imperfections that had come about through the casting process and make them perfectly smooth as fingernails should be.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIn order to do the patina, I first need to clean off all (or at least most of) the corrosion on the surface of the hands. However, I have been hesitant to clean them as I am concerned about rubbing off any of the detail of the skin, or make scratches on them. It had been suggested to me that white spirit could remove the dirt, which seemed to me like a good solution as it doesn’t involve any abrasion, but the technician assured me that I wouldn’t need to use that and instead I should use the sand blaster. Thankfully, I had my spare medals which I don’t feel precious towards and so I used one of them in the sand blaster, but strangely found that there was very little effect on the surface even after holding it under the sand blaster for at least a minute. I can only assume that it was something I was doing wrong, but regardless the technician then told me to try the wire brushes. This I was even more hesitant of, as I was convinced that the hard wire brushes especially on the electric rotary tools would scratch and wear away all the detail, so again I tested it on one of my spare medals.

rotary wire brush on spare female medal

rotary wire brush on spare female medal

Thankfully, I was proved wrong and the wire brush did clean off the majority of the dirt without leaving any marks on the medal itself, and so I used it to clean up my good pair of medals.

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There are also quite a lot of imperfections in between and underneath the fingers, which I presume occurred during coating the wax trees and not having removed all the small air bubbles. So I have now have to proceed with the delicate process of filing these down with a small pointed dremel head.

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this will be me for the next two weeks


BAMS – Medal project – Filing/polishing

The first part in the long process of now taking these rough bronze medals and bringing them up to a finished standard, is to clean up the edges. I did this using a gas powered rotary file, which while effective in filing the medal resulted in covering me with small bronze shavings, which were unfortunately extremely itchy. Perks of the job.

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Although these are now much tidier, the edges are far from done with and will need a lot more filing and polishing in order to make them perfectly smooth and round. One of the problems that I had was a slight dent in the top of the female hand medal where the surface had not fully formed

female hand and male hand medals

female hand (left) with dent at top

This meant that I had to file the entire edge down to the lowest point of the dent, making it significantly smaller and less of a perfect circle. Hopefully I will be able to make it more accurate later, but it is frustrating to have such an obvious imperfection which so strongly effects the form of the medal. This now means that the female hand medal is noticeably smaller than the male medal, meaning I will likely end up having to file that one down to the same size which means I could potentially end up with two medals which are no longer circular.

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pair of medals with filed edges, left female medal is now noticeably not a perfect circle

Another frustrating point, is that the male hand medal is not perfect in it’s edge either, as it gets extremely thin where the base meets the fingers, rather than a consistent thickness the whole way around. I think this is a problem that developed with the original waxes rather than in the bronze pouring process, as I had trouble pushing the thinner female imprint onto the back of the male hand evenly, but I think it is easy not to notice the weight of these small faults until they are given true substance in the final outcome. While I knew that the waxes were imperfect, I had spent so much of my time trying (and failing) to make the “perfect waxes” that it was a matter of compromising on using the best ones I had otherwise I wouldn’t get the process finished in time for submission. While I can look back and see all the failures I have made as justified, it nonetheless is frustrating to see these imperfections in the bronze when there is little to nothing to be done about them, and they are so close to being the ideal image of them that I held in my mind.

I also spent a lot of time trying to file the back surfaces of the medal by hand using a hand file. It is important to me that the surface of the medals (aside from the imprints on the back and the hands on the front) are perfectly smooth, because I want them to give a clear contrast between the perfect surface and then the imperfect human element. Not only this, but I think a perfectly smooth, high polish surface gives an object a professional quality which is something I strive for in my work. I would have liked to use the hand belt sander, which would have saved me a lot of time and energy, but unfortunately there were no sanding belts for it, and the delivery of new ones had gone missing. This left me with no choice but to file by hand

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back of male medal, female imprint

 

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back of female medal, male imprint

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left male hand medal, right female hand medal

They are both reasonably flat and I’m beginning to smooth out some of the marks on the surface, but as with everything else, far from finished. Ideally we’ll be able to get some more sanding belts soon, otherwise I’m going to be filing by hand for a very long time.


Field summary

Interaction Design:

My first field module was interaction design, with our brief being to design an object with a computing element which you interact with without a screen. I found this to be a really interesting brief, although I was inexperienced with creating anything with computing functions I was looking forward to learning these skills. It quickly became evident that the focus of the exercise was much more focused on the design aspect and making a prototype, rather than a finished functional item. This gave me an interesting insight into the design process in terms of a product designer, looking at the target market, creating a video demonstrating it’s function, and looking at methods that can be used to trick a person into thinking that a prototype is fully functional when in fact it is being controlled manually behind the scenes. The video element especially was something I really enjoyed, and I found it really exciting to be able to go out and film my own video of a product and then sit and edit it together. I felt that I really gained a valuable skill that I wouldn’t have otherwise explored thanks to this project, and I think if I were to film a video again I would be far more confident and have a clearer idea of what I am doing. I also plan to go back and re edit my video, as I feel the original one was far longer than is necessary because I was under the impression the video had to be exactly 2:30 seconds long and so spent a lot of time laboriously making it fit that time, only to find that the time constraint was far looser. For my presentation at the end of the project, I was one of the only people in the group to have any form of physical prototype, let alone working, which it was by means of taking a mechanism out of a toy I already owned but which roughly demonstrated the function I wanted it to have. I feel like this has possibly caused me to have set myself a harder task in carrying the project forward, as most people will have just gone on to make a prototype whereas I now have to develop upon that prototype I have already made. My original plans for the project were quite ambitious, having internet connectivity, touch sensors, heaters, and all manner of things, despite having no experience in the area of arduino or knowing what components I would have to purchase. However, looking at things now and with the time I have left for the project, it is looking like I am going to have to narrow my goals and simplify it to just responding to touch with sound, which I feel is admirable enough in itself if I can achieve it. One of my main issues with this is not having the on hand technical tutoring to support me with my ambitious ideas, and I’ve found arduino a very difficult area to just jump into without first understanding the basics of components and coding.

 

Internet of things:

My second field project was the internet of things, which I was very much looking forward to as it is one of my tutor’s (Ingrid Murphy) main passions in her work, and I had heard a lot about it’s possibilities and was again interested at learning how to bring more technical computing skills into my work and hoping this subject would teach me them. However, unfortunately Ingrid herself had been booked very little time for tutoring this subject, and the majority of the tutoring was done by two different tutors, and I personally found very little of what they spoke about to be directly related to “The Internet of Things”. At no point during the project were we ever pushed into formulating ideas for an actual project, and instead it was largely us being shown different technologies such as 3D scanning and printing, Augmented Reality etc, all of which I had already been shown as a Maker student. Because of this, it wasn’t really an eye opening experience to a whole new world of possibilities for me, and even so I feel like a process isn’t a very good starting point for a project? In my opinion a process should be decided upon after having an idea, and while having a wide knowledge base affords you a better choice in options to best express your ideas, and may allow you to think in directions you wouldn’t have otherwise, I don’t think it’s good enough to just say “I’m going to do a project on 3D printing”. Because of having no clear end point to work towards, as well as the fact we had been shown little to no examples (other than by Ingrid) of these technologies and ideas being actually integrated into artistic works, I found it extremely difficult to come up with any ideas for this project at all as I simply had no context in which to work within. There was a strong focus on coding by the main tutor, however again having no end point to work towards I struggled to know what I was aiming to achieve with the coding and it all seemed like a difficult and fruitless effort. The Raspberry Pi was also something that was emphasised a lot, which was something I had heard of but had no personal experience with, and again not knowing what I could possibly purpose it for it seemed like a waste of time and money to purchase one, but then much of the teaching became redundant because it was based around programming a Raspberry Pi.

 

Summary:

In all, while I think the idea of field is an admirable one and one that has the potential to work well, I feel like the execution on the whole is poor and uneven. There seems to be a great disparity between projects, with some having a very high workload and others having very little, some needing physical outcomes and others resulting only in an idea or a group experience. I think what I found most difficult about the field experience was the fact it was spaced out over many weeks, on a Tuesday and Thursday in the middle of the week. While I understand that we are meant to be simultaneously working on our Subject work over this time, I found that it was really impossible to be putting any real focus into more than one project at once. The modules either left me with no spare time at all as I was having to work on my field work over the rest of the week as I was with the Interaction Design project, or then having the opposite with the Internet of Things where I had no work to be getting on with, but the week was broken up so that I couldn’t get into the flow of focusing on my Subject work. I would much prefer if the project was given a dedicated block of time, say 3-4 weeks of time to be solely focused on the field project at hand with tutors available at least 3 out of 5 week days with work to be getting on with on the days without tutor contact. Not only this but I would like a more balanced standard of field subjects to choose from, each with roughly the same amount of work being asked for it so that everyone is working under the same time constraints and producing the same degree of work. I also struggle with the concept of having to be developing our final presentation for our field subject into an ongoing and improved project, as once you begin working seriously on Subject I then find that there is very little time to be revisiting field, and it is too much to be juggling all at once. If I had the choice, field would be condensed into entirely the first term, with each field module being self contained with a finished item being presented at the end of it. This then allows the ideas and experiences from field flow into the subject work more organically, as currently I’ve found field to be more of an interruption and an obstacle to my Subject work, as by the point you get to seriously start working on your Subject in the second term you have already at least settled on an idea which is then difficult to stray away from and incorporate elements of Field into .


Literature review: Object Relations in Psychoanalytic Theory

In reading this book I am responding to the question of can the human exist as an object, outside the physical being.

I have found in this book that the term “object relations” in regards to psychology and psychoanalysis does not in fact refer to objects as we would think about them in the everyday language such as chairs, pens, televisions etc. but rather the focus and subject of a person’s internal perception or desires. This can, I believe, still include physical objects, but the book focuses almost exclusively on the relations between babies and children and “objects” in the outside world, the outside world being anything which exists outside the child’s own body and internal perceptions. These relationships and the dynamics between them, positive and gratifying or destructive and unpleasant, are according to psychoanalytic theory what then forms a child’s personality and establishes the mechanisms they use in order to coordinate future obstacles in adulthood.

While it does not directly relate to the focus of my dissertation, in how humans can establish and reinforce relationships through objects (objects in the literal sense of cups, clothes, gifts etc) it has given me an interesting insight into the idea of humans themselves being seen and treated as objects foreign from ourselves and imbued with meaning and significance which we carry within our own minds.

As with almost all elements of psychoanalytics, the origins of object relations can be traced back to the work or Sigmund Freud. One of Freud’s earliest cases was the treatment of Anna O, whose treatment by a fellow psychologist Josef Breuer after she developed the belief that Breuer was acting inappropriately and making sexual advances towards her. This lead Freud to the theory of transference, in that the perception of an object of focus (in this case Breuer) was not necessarily accurate or corresponded to the actual behaviour of those that object, and that they instead act as a backdrop on which a person (in this case Anna O) can project their internal “psychic representation” onto. This psychic representation of a person is always carried around internally and is subject to many influences which are both conscious and unconscious, as well as then inherently influencing the interaction with the “real” person who has become the object in question, and their perception of the interaction. The book uses the example of a man who has been struggling with anxieties about having wasted years of his life, and whose niece and boyfriend are coming to visit him over the holidays. He spends much of his time preparing for their visit by fastidiously cleaning the house, in anticipation of their critical and punishing attitude towards his home life, feeling shameful about his living conditions and how they will be observed. However, in reality his niece and partner were far from interested in criticising the cleanliness of his home and in fact spent much of their time lazing around the house or staying in bed. This is then met by the uncle with scorn and judgement of his own towards the guests, a direct mirror of the previously imagined scorn that the visitors would show to him.

This relates back to my research in the idea that a relationship between people can exist independently of any interaction with that person, and instead (to borrow a term used by the book) via a psychic representation of that person which is then focused or displaced onto an object. While two people may therefore be sharing in a “psychic relationship” through an object, that is not to say that they are sharing the same perception, and in fact each person’s interpretation and perception of the object and it’s significance may be completely different with very little overlay, other than that it refers to their relationship with the other person.

Frustratingly, the book poses itself many questions which as far as I can tell has failed to answer (I cannot say this conclusively without a more thorough reading of the book in it’s entirety, but I could not find the answers forthcoming).

“How do the characteristics of internal objects relate to those of “real” people, past and present? Is the internal object a representation of the individuals perception of a total relationship with another person or of specific aspects and characteristics of the other? What are the circumstances in which such images become internalized, and which is the mechanism by which they are established as part of the individual’s inner world? What is the connection between these internal representations and subsequent relations with real others in the external world? How do internal objects function within mental life? Are there different types of internal objects? Do different circumstances and mechanisms of internalization lead to different kinds of internal objects?”

These are all questions that I would very much like answers to, and I feel are relevant to my research. However it seems to me that the answers get lost in speculation and comparison between various researchers and studies, whose different approaches all seem to be focused upon child development and specifically the development of sexual drives within a child, as in following on from Freud’s work.

Later in the book while investigating the work of Heinz Kohurt, it links the development of object relations in a child back to the formations as an adult patient. He expresses the theory that an infant views parental figures and other close relationships in early life as being “selfobjects”, as of yet unable to distinguish them from it’s own being and using the selfobject’s experiences and emotions as a basis of its own. Kohurt states that it is through the selfobjects mirroring of the child, or alternatively the child idealising the selfobject it allows the child to create an image of self that is separate from others. This is a process that can happen throughout life, and Kohurt specifically talks about the relationship between patient and psychoanalyst in which the analyst becomes the selfobject of the patient. It is through reflection on the patient’s relationship with the analyst, and in understanding and overcoming their unavoidable failures to fully empathise and understand the patient that they then grow to understand their sense of self and separatedness from the selfobject, and Kohurt theories that the need for self objects is not something that is ever outgrown.