What do objects want?
Last Friday’s New York Times had a review of an exhibition at the SculptureCenter. The exhibition drew inspiration from a book that the Press recently honored, What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images by W. J. T. Mitchell. Martha Schwendener writes for the NYT:
What do objects want? The question, immediately recalling Freud’s about women, also paraphrases the title of W. J. T. Mitchell’s book What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images, the inspiration for an exhibition at the SculptureCenter in Long Island City, Queens.
Mr. Mitchell, a professor at the University of Chicago and editor of the journal Critical Inquiry, observes that “modern, rational, secular” people don’t generally treat pictures like persons, yet “we always seem to be willing to make exceptions for special cases.” (Most of us, for instance, would be reluctant to poke out the eyes on a photograph of our mother.) But pictures have desires, too, he argues, and a primary one is the desire to capture our attention—to “transfix the beholder” and gain some measure of mastery or power over us.
The Happiness of Objects, organized by Sarina Basta, the SculptureCenter curator, takes Mr. Mitchell’s ideas and tweaks them to fit an exhibition of work by nearly two dozen artists and artist collectives. Visitors receive a handout titled “The Object’s Bill of Rights,” which lays out a series of demands like “The Object has the right to be claimed or forgotten, lost or found,” and “The Object has the right to many lovers.”
You can learn more about the show at the SculptureCenter website, or check out Mitchell’s fascinating book, either way, your understanding of our increasingly visual culture is guaranteed to be transformed.