Unreal Nature

July 6, 2017

The Object

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… what constituted it were her attentions, and these attentions are what gave it shape.

This is from the essay ‘The Ritual of Everyday Life: On the Migrating Objects of Jay DeFao’ (2011) found in Walead Beshty: 33Texts: 93,614 Words: 581,035 Characters: Selected Writings (2003-20015) edited by Lionel Bovier (2015):

One can imagine it being turned over and over again, pinched between her fingers as she looked at student paintings and chatted with colleagues, then think of it intermingling with loose change and pocket lint until it found its way to the bed of a copy machine, where it would be pressed tightly between her palm and the optical glass as the LED eye beam scrolled back and forth.

[line break added] It would journey back from the Art Institute, Mills College, or any of the other schools she passed through as a teacher, to her Fillmore home, then Larkspur, or later Oakland, just as it had beforehand, and begin the trip again with her the next day, next week, or next month, its orbital period as much in flux as hers. It would be photographed, possibly with its little carrying case if it had one, positioned in raking morning light one day, washed by studio floods the next, then later its image would be enlarged to an unnatural scale, be cut out, laid roughly on the surface of a drawing and haloed by an array of stray marks, without any stable ground to give gravity proper purchase or it a sense of context.

[line break added] There it would loom like a monolith over the page, before it would be abstracted as a string of forms in thick oil on canvas, or sketched in arcing geometries like a half-completed diagram, shifting scale again, before reappearing in still other forms. It would appear in photographs of her home and studio, the images positioned uncomfortably between works of art, studies, and simple documentation, showing the object in its mundane existence, a nod to its modest belonging in the quotidian.

[line break added] Yet the object would also perform as a compositional element, acting in the services of a picture rather than as its focus, reduced to schematic line and shape by the eye of the camera or the swipe of charcoal. Its image would bounce from surface to surface, material to material, going dormant for a period only to return later.

[line break added] In some instances it was a muse just as she sometimes was for other artists, at others a memento of those very relationships, all the while soaking up the atmosphere she was in as it acted as her own personal satellite, circulating through the world with her. And just as it cycled to and fro, so did its image, moving from canvas to page to emulsion; each arrival of its echo would see it stretching and contorting in a seemingly endless game of telephone. Then abruptly she would abandon it, and some other object would take its place and be animated by her affections.

[line break added] It may seem fickle, perhaps, but maybe it was the object that changed on her rather than she on it. But that did not matter, for it would likely return later with renewed significance, reinstated to its position as the passive recipient of her movement through the world. One could think of this in less absolute terms, that her object never really changed, it simply shifted physical form, that what constituted it were her attentions, and these attentions are what gave it shape.

[ … ]

… each experience of any object is another moment in its circulation through the world, a circulation that imbues it with meaning, which adds to it, and that this circulation occurs directly through us.

My most recent previous post from Beshty’s book is here.

-Julie

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