Ordinarily, upon hearing the word “object”, the first thing we think is “subject”. Our second thought, perhaps, is that objects are fixed, stable and unchanging, and therefore to be contrasted with events and processes. The object, we are told, is that which is opposed to a subject, and the question of the relation between the subject and the object is a question of how the subject is to relate to or represent the object. The Democracy of Objects, Levi R. Bryant
On one of my many ritual walks around the St. Henri hood (Sud-Ouest, Montreal), I’d come across an array of objects scattered along the streets, alleyways or in someone’s backyard. Some of these objects were still intact and recognizable, while others were in the process of partial decay – still hinting as to their past purpose.
And there were still others which had been busted up so bad – removed from their original material body – that their physical presence had become a sort of abstracted entity onto themselves. However, what all these objects seemed to have common, was that they had been either rejected, lost, or left behind – their purpose served?
An important question began to materialize for me during these ritual walks and encounters with said objects. What is the relationship of these objects to myself, to society and to the spaces they inhibit now – besides of course their obvious environmental impact?
This line of questioning also brought to mind a realization that I had become involved in some sort of anthropological and archaeological quest. But I wasn’t so concerned about the origins of these found objects, as much as, their state of existence in the moment I encountered them. To this end I decided to document them (via my cell phone) as a sort of photographic impression of their present state of being.
The project takes its title ‘Democracy of Objects,’ from an essay I had read a few weeks earlier by Levi R. Bryant, also entitled, ‘The Democracy of Objects‘. However, the choosing of the title also had to do with the way these found objects would seem to present themselves during my walks. What at first appeared to be a sort of archaic formation as to their displacement, began to postulate a very different possibility in relationship to myself, and the spaces I moved through on a daily basis.
In his essay, Bryant points out an interesting point about our relationship to objects in that a ‘division between the world of nature and the world of the subject and culture’ occurs and that ‘the question of the object, of what substances are, is subtly transformed into the question of how and whether we know objects’.
So I began to also ask myself: do I really know these objects? How and why had I happened to come upon them? I began to realize that the objects themselves had no one system of prioritization. Each object wasn’t any more or less important than the other, except perhaps for the location in which they had been discarded – which in turn effected where and how I would discover them. Another important question was how I chose to prioritize them in my own mind’s eye, that is, the process of choosing which objects to document. I quickly realized the choices being made were based on my own subjective experiences – the objects color, form, state and use.
Furthermore, the process of documenting the objects allowed them to now exist and function on three levels or referential points – past, present and future. Their past – their state upon discovery – had left behind some material clues as to their identity. From these clues, one could if they wished, trace their initial functional purpose; the materials and process that brought them into being, and their intended position within a societal setting. Their present relates to their state as a photographic impression, now captured in time according to when I had encountered and documented them. Their future however, was indeterminate, but would now continue to unfold on two fronts – physically and virtually.
Physically, of course, the objects would continue to evolve or devolve – depending on how one choose to interpret the process. There would definitely be a process of physical change over time to these objects in relationship to their environment.
The objects once documented and grouped together based on the date they were discovered, would in turn change their original relationship and meaning to each other and myself. Once posted online, they relational meaning to each other and myself would change once again.
Why post the objects onto social media sites? In a sense it is a continuation of that initial question I had asked myself during my ritual walks: What is the relationship of these objects to myself, to society and to the spaces they inhibit? This time however, they exist within a virtual space, where the process of discovery and choosing of specific objects occurs through other participants online. As participants come across and discover these now virtual-ized found objects within their own social virtual environments, they may choose to interact with them. In a sense, the objects now move to another plane of relational existence – one with the participants.
Overview of Objects Documented
Interact with the Objects:
on Instagram | Or upload your own with hashtag: #democracyofobjects