An Object is just an Object, or is it?

Research Question

A comparative examination of the selected artworks ‘Present Tense’ (1996) by Mona Hatoum and ‘Personnes’ (2010) by Christian Boltanski; in the philosophical context of Marcel Prousts’ Involuntary Memory and Maurice Halbwachs’ Collective Memory.


Boltanski | Hatoum | Involuntary Memory | Collective Memory | Objects | Halbwachs | Proust


A systematic contextualisation of the key artworks; ‘Present Tense’ (1996) by Mona Hatoum and ‘Personnes’ (2010) by Christian Boltanski. Using qualitative research methodologies, a critical examination of the philosophical framework of memory theory defined by Marcel Proust and Maurice Halbwachs will be demonstrated in this research paper.

By methodically completing documentary analysis of historical texts. Qualitative research methods will be applied universally to the Proustian theory of involuntary memory recall and the established Halbwachs theory of collective memory.

Independently observing personal remembrances in the published book, Evocative Objects by Sherry Turkle. Reasonable consideration will be properly applied to the intellectual argument that personal involuntary memories can spontaneously appear through direct or indirect interaction with insignificant, familiar objects. Observational Evidence will adequately demonstrate the key concept that these personal memories become more compelling within a social context.

Critically examining the generational practice of story-telling through the selected artworks will comprehensively comprise a narrative analysis. This will mutually support the prevailing Halbwachs theory plausibly suggesting personal memory can exclusively exist within a social framework. Also suggesting the spontaneous response experienced when interacting with the considered artworks becomes more profound in a broader social context of the cultural history and the social community.

The comparative analysis will thoughtfully provide supporting evidence to the fundamental principles of involuntary and collective memory. Sufficiently demonstrating that our personal associations with such commonplace objects are also influenced by the collective memory of our local community and the social framework where it ordinarily resides. Also Suggesting that seemingly irrelevant, yet commonplace objects can be utilised in a completed artwork as emotional triggers becoming characteristically memorable when put into a critical context.

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