submissions due to Eyelevel on Oct 9th

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OBJECT HISTORIES: EYELEVEL PRINTED MATTER EXHIBITION

1 Nov – 19 Dec 2020

In light of the itinerant nature of printed matter, the exhibition will be displayed at Eyelevel as well as at satellite exhibitions in Nova Scotia at the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts and ARTsPLACE Artist-run Centre. This curatorial decision is intended to highlight the theme of recirculation as a source of connection, even across far-reaching distances.

Following the theme, participants are invited, though not required, to consider and/or problematize the following ideas:

  • Permanence and temporality 

  • Lifespan of objects

  • Library/archives/used bookstores

  • Individualized histories of objects

  • Ownership

  • Connectivity sparked by recirculated objects

  • Keepsakes

  • Family heirlooms 

  • Memorabilia

  • Sentimentality

  • Intergenerational knowledge sharing

  • Assigning significance to objects/questioning value

  • Collecting 

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ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

For the ninth rendition of Eyelevel’s biannual printed matter exhibition (formerly known as the Eyelevel Reshelving Initiative - ERI), we want participants to consider the culture of material objects. Cultures are understood largely in relation to material objects, that is, we often tend to display a culture through its artifacts. Bill Brown defines object culture as something that is both material and symbolic. Object culture encompasses objects through which a culture constitutes itself, as well as objects in terms of their physical and material embodiment of culture. Objects mediate our sense of ourselves and others, meaning that our property distinguishes us from others in the ways that they mediate human interactions through the principles of exchange and possession. Moreover, objects house histories that are material, economic, and symbolic. These histories include those of production, exchange, use, appeal, unease, and desire. These multiple histories lay congealed in an object and contribute to how we assign value. OBJECT HISTORIES intends to compel participants to pose the question, what is the primacy of material culture and how does this influence our understanding of culture as a whole?

Through OBJECT HISTORIES, participants are encouraged to consider these object histories and question how we interact with them. Object histories are particularly relevant in this day and age given the dramatic increase in and revitalization of used economies. This newfound interest in buying vintage is driven partially by environmental concern. The desire to repurpose and reuse stems from an urge to resist the endless cycle of mass production that is so damaging to our planet. There is also something compelling about an object that has had a past life, it speaks to a kind of a  permanence and stability in a world that is so fixated on arbitrary progress and adaptation. Hannah Arendt writes, “Nowhere else [does the] thing-world reveal itself so spectacularly as the non-mortal home for mortal beings. It is as though worldly stability had become transparent in the permanence of art” (Brown 191). 

Likewise, objects have social lives. This principle is often applied to commodities based on principles of exchange. However, we can extend this theory beyond commodities and an object’s use value in terms of keepsakes and heirlooms. These objects possess an inherent wealth that transcends the material and capitalist conventions of value. That is to say, objects are not bound to their physical form, but rather they store emotional, cultural, and even spiritual significance. Objects are not random, on the contrary, they ground us, our beliefs, and our experiences of the world. 

However, objects are not simply by-products of culture, but they in turn hold the potential to and have created and determined the course of a society. Consequently, we have to challenge the way in which we assign significance to objects and how these acts in turn materialize dominant ideologies. We must implicate value and the biases of the dominant culture that have accounted for how value has been assigned. Therefore, object histories cannot be fully understood without considering the preoccupations of the dominant culture, and similarly, the history of thought must be considered in relation to material conditions. 

Hence, we are encouraging participants to think historically about the future through the lens of material culture and to problematize value by considering the intimate histories of objects. To explore the interconnections between use, exchange, sentimental, and cultural value, participants are encouraged to politicize and upend value structures and explore themes that include permanence and temporality, individualized histories of objects, ownership, share and circulated objects, keepsakes, family heirlooms, and memorabilia. Moreover, we want to explore how these themes and discussions can spark connectivity beyond Halifax by extending this show to rural galleries in Nova Scotia. This also give us the opportunity to question the way art has thrived and been given greater attention in metropolitan areas, and to draw attention to the radical work that is being created in rural areas as well.

-Sophia Dime, Eyelevel Curatorial Resident; Object Histories Curator

Works Cited
Brown, Bill. “Objects, Others, and Us (The Refrabrication of Things)”. Critical Inquiry, vol. 36, no.2, 2010, pp. 183-217.

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Sophia Dime (they/them) is a curator who recently graduated from the University of King's College with a BA in Contemporary Studies and English, and a certificate in Art History. Last summer, Sophia worked as Eyelevel's summer Program Assistant and is thrilled to return to Halifax to curate OBJECT HISTORIES. They are interested in 2SLGBTQ+ theory, particularly in relation to the ways in which the queer contemporary artists reimagine histories of oppression and erasure. They firmly believe that art is a vital facet of community care and of transcribing a public memory. 

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