Far beyond the simple acts of creation and possession, our relationships with objects have acquired increased complexity and intimacy. By considering objects as actors that shape us and the world anew, an alternative understanding of wider political, social and cultural shifts becomes possible. This symposium invites a stellar and diverse crew of artists and writers to speak for, perform around, and converse about objects, in order to build a more nuanced, intricate, and collective reading.
Objects are all around us, and their ubiquity often lends them a quiet taken-for-grantedness. They tend to be mostly mute, often immobile, and only “come to life” when we encourage them to. But like the ravens amassing on the school playground in Hitchcock’s The Birds, we seem at present to have abruptly noticed them.
As a result, the study and understanding of objects is undergoing a gentle renaissance. In philosophy or design, anthropology or literature, history or fine art, cinema or material science, it feels as if the object has recently been brought down from the attic, dusted off, and placed proudly on the mantle – or even sat at the dinner table – to become a new kind of protagonist or antagonist of contemporary debate.
Contemporary reading of objects
Launched in 2013 by Noam Toran, currently a research fellow at Het Nieuwe Instituut, The Object as Actor symposium series promotes a pluralist, complicating and contemporary reading of objects, and of “thingness”, with the aim of creating cross-disciplinary “infections”. The symposia are designed to formulate new perspectives on our circumstances and conditions via the things which currently occupy or surround us, using performative lectures, unexpected formats, filmic fascinations, scholarly obsessions, and journeys through the detritus of everyday life.
The Object as Actor symposium is a project by artist Noam Toran, funded by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Previous editions took place at the Royal College of Art in London, focusing on literary and post-colonial readings of “thingness”, and the Art Center Pasadena in Los Angeles, streaked with Hollywood and sci-fi influences.
Speakers will include Yvonne Dröge Wendel (keynote), Catherine Flood, Travis Jeppesen, Alexandra Midal, Marquard Smith, and Tamar Shafrir. The talks will be interspersed with screenings, performances, and technologically infected interactions. The final programme will be announced in early January 2017.