‘My Self in Objects.’

I am materialistic and I live in an object based world. I am interested in the links between people and objects; from my BA dissertation in which I explored the element of craft in design which lends an authenticity to objects made in multiple, to this past year where I have been exploring memory and possession in and of objects. My interest in human attachment to objects has developed through a fascination for material ‘things,’ and the importance people place in objects.

The balance of inherited and the second-hand objects that become involved in identity formation of not only individuals but family groups is a fascinating, but imprecise area to start looking into.
Inherited items are usually connected to the loss of a physical presence; ‘memory objects.’(1) These objects have a history, a narrative; often known, sometimes unknown. Narrative can be pieced together from fragments of stories passed down generations, from family trees, and information gathered over the years. A story can be enriched and more satisfying when linked to a specific figure, especially an ancestor, however “…inalienable wealth is also an obligation and a burden.”(2)

The curious thing about second-hand objects, on the other hand, is their elusive nature and uncanny histories. Stories are slippery; boundaries between fiction and reality can leak and blend together. A hint of a past life can be revealed in the torn edges of a letter, in the faint smell in a fabric purse, in the worn leather of a glasses case and in the powder traces in a compact. Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, these objects take on a new life within our collections, the traces of their pasts combining with their future within our lives.

“Objects grown strange with disuse were markers of desire in ways that objects firmly inserted into a present day context of consumption could never be.”(3)

Family objects, and objects belonging to people we know appear to be easier to understand and ‘read’. However, there is something quite refreshing and peculiar about objects which don’t have the burden of a known history. These objects can be chosen and enjoyed simply because they are interesting, and their narratives speak to us in a way that objects burdened with identity cannot.

Signifiers of narrative, letters and envelopes specifically, carry great potential for an inquiry into second-hand and inherited narrative and the illusion of the unknown. An empty envelope as a symbol of a connection, a thread, between receiver and giver, unknown origin, and a somewhat ambiguous destination is the starting point for this enquiry. Dialogue, narrative, collaboration between real and imagined, and a way of rethinking the importance of objects to our lives will be my main focus. I will attempt to see objects not only as the foundation of identity formation, but as a springboard, a reference, and the origins of the potential of the future.

(1) Juliet Ash, Memory and Objects in Pat Kirkham (Ed.) The Gendered Object (Manchester; Manchester University Press, 1996) p.219

(2) How Individuals’ Cherished Possessions Become Families’ Inalienable Wealth, Carolyn Folkman Curasi, Linda L. Price, Eric J Arnould, Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. Vol. 31 (December 2004) p.618

(3) Jerry Cullum , Keys to the Curio Cabinet in Art Papers vol. 21 (January/February 1997) unpaginated