Notes on Things, from Manchester UK

The Living Room, Lee Mingwei’s show at the Chinese Arts Centre (through July 27) sounds fascinating.

The NYC-based artist arranged a vibrantly wallpapered space for local collectors to use for display and discussion of objects. It seems that they’ve found quite an interesting and diverse range of hosts to participate.

You can learn more on the The questions posed,

“Why do we collect?”


“What do our collections say about us?”

however, seem harder to grasp via the site; perhaps it is more discernible for those who attend the events in person.

On the site, there’s a video of an audio recording of Lee’s artist’s talk—an overview of past projects. As an audio recording, there aren’t any images, but I found it worthwhile because of the open-ended, conceptual and participatory nature of his work does not demand images as much as more formal artworks would. The audio-video shed light on his practice overall, but I wanted to hear more about the above two questions. The researcher in me wants to inquire about the projects’ outcomes, and the artist in me shudders at the thought.

More things examined in Manchester and viewable at:


notes on things: politically incorrect maps

This week’s Ethicist column (“Map or Menace?” by Chuck Klosterman, New York Times, July 5, 2013) offers an interesting opportunity to consider the neutrality of objects, via a vintage map of Germany in 1937 for possible display in a living room.

I would argue that the artifact itself should be neutral, yet its display is freighted with associations that are not. How much meaning is imparted by the artifact, and how much by its display?

Consider the paradox:

There’s no ethical responsibility to avoid offending people who manufacture personal meanings.

I appreciate that Klosterman acknowledges that meanings are superimposed by viewers upon objects here, echoing artist Haim Steinbach’s The Object Lesson course centered on show-and-tells of the same objects every week (The Artist’s Institute describes how students learned that “analysis hinged on their own projections and desires”).


If you deliberately present an image that is prone to misinterpretation, you have to accept the consequences.

…perhaps presenting an opportunity to map an overlap between the home’s “symbolic ecology” (as described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) and group social relations. The symbolic ecology reminds residents of who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and what they aspire to do, yet it also conveys these identities to visitors. What we own and display tells others about who we are, even from within the safety of our own domestic museums of the self.


notes on things: from The Intelligence of Things, Parsons 2013 MFA curatorial statement

For a growing number of contemporary artists and thinkers, the ontology of objects has prompted new investigations and modes of making. Perhaps in reaction to the dominance of screens and images in our daily life, artistic practice has embraced the object-as-thing: estranged, powerful and physical…. …objects become ciphers for memory, desire and fantasy. Far from simple gestures, thethings in these works articulate their place as icons and bodily analogs, and as protagonists in interiors, architectural spaces and the scope of history.

The exhibition privileges the role of the displayed objects over any overarching curatorial concept. As a title The Intelligence of Things both emphasizes this approach and illuminates these artworks’ powerful effect and affect. That is to say that following Kant’s purposeful purposelessness, these artworks upend our notions of a thing’s effect or intent, and each one has a particular character, demeanor, and accent—whether fierce or foppish. …The exhibition and the works therein, rather, critically explore how things and human subjects together produce meaning in the world.

(Source: Art & Education)