Monday, July 16, 2012

The even more anxious object

No one loves objects more than we do but it’s hard to avoid the thought that their domination of the visual arts might be on the decline. Invisible: art about the unseen 1957-2012 is an exhibition of absences at the Haywood Gallery in London curated by Ralph Rugoff. It feels like another twitch in this growing anxiety. The re-examination of the subject of objects (starting with whether more objects should even be added to the world’s load) is definitely heating up.

 It was in the breeze that wafted through four almost empty galleries in a work by Ryan Gander at Documenta, in Bruce Nauman’s sound piece Days at the ICA in London, and has been heralded for some time by the renewed fascination for non-object conceptual art of the seventies. It is also apparent in the growing concern of public art museums about storage overload in the face of their expanding collections i.e. objects as a management problem. And then there is all the talk about what objects mean to a generation living in its laptops.

We do live in an analogue material world of course surrounded by objects (shoes, buildings, forks and yes laptops) and there will always be artists who won't, or can’t, let the object go. (“I’m trying to capture the individual’s desire for the object” – Jeff Koons). While you can certainly count on the auction houses and dealers not going down without a fight there is a rising tide. Too many artists are challenging the centrality of objects, and the boundaries between subjects and objects, to think that we will avoid these traditional relationships unravelling.