I have been reading the book, Evocative Objects by Sherry Turkle and am fascinated by the meaning we place on objects around us, making the seemingly ordinary and insignificant possess greater significance in our lives. Certain objects can bring a sense of reminiscence for us, evoking memories and recollections from our past. The meaning that we place on specific objects can change as time passes and our memories fade. This book is a collective of stories where people are providing a narrative relating to familiar every day objects that they have pinned this sense of remembrance onto.
Using theory Turkle explores the role that everyday objects play in our inner lives and how this affinity and associations we possess for our own evocative objects brings the outer world into our inner world connecting objects to and preserving our relationships with our memories, bringing thoughts and feelings and melding our ideas and passions together.
There are six theoretical themes in this collection; Objects of Design and Play, Discipline and Desire, History and Exchange, Transition and Passage, Mourning and Memory and Meditation and New Vision. Bringing together a collection of personal stories about objects with strong connections to daily life that are then further reflected on and related to theoretical texts.
Jewellery invoking emotions and feelings about the immigration status of a mother and daughter. A student who identifies through the car she is driving who finally changes her Ford Falcon to a Station Wagon when she becomes a mother. A child with a bunny that can read her mind. A rock reminding a widow of the presence of her deceased husband. A sense of oneness between a gentleman and his glucometer akin to the oneness we feel for our modern technology. A grandfathers life-long association with his SX-70 Polaroid camera and photo transformation leaving his family with a representation of familiar people and places on his passing. A collection of salvaged photographs recovered after a fire.
Most objects have this value to people because of the circumstances in their lives around the time that the object was part of their lives. Yet some seem to have a more natural, uncanny resonance with memory, recognizable, yet unfamiliar, creating an ambiguity with what is known and not known about our inner self and the outer world.
The Knot Lady, as she was formerly known observed a student who was subconsciously using knots in her Knot Laboratory to process her feelings and emotions experienced during a difficult time in her home life, the divorce of her parents. Feeling torn between her mum and dad, she expressed these feelings of being pulled in two different directions through her knot making and also began to overcome some of these emotions at the same time. An expression of her own inner reflection on the outer world and circumstances around her. This particular story is paried with a reference to the Paris archives La Fondation Le Corbusier, the experience of visiting the archives in person to reflect on the archived drawings and their materiality and their subsequent digitisation. Observing the archives online lead to a greater sense of anonymity and a lack of connection with the physicality of the archive. The physical essence of the painstakingly hand-drawn drawings covered with directly fingerprints and smudges on the really thin paper was lost when viewed digitally.
An MIT student describing her laptop as irreplaceable may not seem an out of place ideal in today’s society. Yet her associations with her laptop may not be what would first come to mind. Her early romantic relationships were intrinsically associated with her laptop, in particular being the medium for the initial connection with her first love. So much so that any interaction with her laptop would remind her of this person supporting the idea that we can imbue an object with emotional value, bringing reminders of a person or situation whenever we associate with that object. In this particular case, the student already passionate about computers with early romantic associations is naturally reminded of love when she interacts with her computer. A reference is also made to another student with “romantic” ideals who spends all his time at his computer, but not to avoid the outside world, seeing the computer as a pathway to a web of social interactions and relationships and potentially a way to fall in love again.
The associations we subconsciously create with objects can subtly alter over time as circumstances, emotions, feelings, thoughts and opinions change and develop. We use these associations with the familiar to connect our inner being with the outer world. We can forget how these objects came to be so important or natural in our lives, yet these natural objects have historical significance to us as our lives progress.
In my current artwork I am creating associations and connections with seemingly inanimate objects to reflect on memory; collective, personal, historical, social, known, unknown, fading, changing and assumed in an attempt to express the relationship between the experience of the inner self and the outer world.
Turkle, S. (2011). Evocative objects. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.