ArtsLab Shopfront's artists in residence

A little bit daunting

What is it that I want to know? Seems like a straightforward enough question but it’s one that has been plaguing me since my interview for Artslab a month ago and proving tricky to answer. So what to say… well I’ll start as a politician and dodge the question for a moment and make a detour via a philosopher and cultural theorist I recently stumbled upon and am delighted to note agree with me (yes, I recognise it’s more like I agree with him, but still it’s exciting to have a thought and then find out it’s been ‘legitimised’ already by some old French guy writing forty years ago).

So who have I found…well, last week I came upon a wonderful book called ‘The Everyday Life reader’ by Cultural Theorist Ben Highmore. This book introduced me to two philosophical soul mates. I will speak of one today. His name is George Perec and writing in 73’ he wrote ‘Approaches to What?’. Perec talks of the imbalance between what is seen or noted as ‘significant’ and what actually is significant, or rather what else is significant. To quote “the daily papers (who speak of scandal) talk of everything except the ‘daily’…. what’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it? How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs every day: the banal, the quotidian, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infra-ordinary, the background noise, the habitual?”

He goes on to say that we need to ‘found our own anthropology… one that will speak about us, will look in ourselves for what so long we’ve been pillaging from others. Not the exotic any more, but the endotic’. I couldn’t agree more. I was elated to read he said we must ‘question your tea spoons’ as just a week before reading this I had made a tiny performance at Shopfront about the wonder of a teaspoon, a plastic teaspoon at that.

My inquiry is into objects, the objects that surround us (and we surround them) in our lives: what are they doing? Where are they situated in out lives? Why are they here? What is their materiality? What are they when we grant them the freedom to not simply be an object for our intended use? I want to look critically at our relationship to the things that surround us and help us to live and in part, create our lives, etch our our existence and identity. So what is it that I want I know….well, I don’t quite know yet exactly, but perhaps, ideally speaking, it’s about finding and putting back some poetry into our lives which has been overrun by the prosaic and to quote form another soulmate, Michel de Certeau ‘to learn how to make one’s own choice amoung the tools and commodities produced by the industrial era.’ (Highmore 2002).

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