Now that I have one piece “finished,” (yikes! I need to pick up the pace!) I find myself going back to a familiar question: Why do I use found objects in my sculptural work? My apologies in advance for what is certain to be a long-winded rant.
I think this is an important question and an old question. I am not rehashing Marcel Duchamp’s declaration, “if the artist chooses an object to be art, then it is art,” I am asking what is a found object? Duchamp chose to display a bottle rack to be art because he thought it to be a completely mundane and neutral object with no aesthetic or emotional burden (so he said…). But the response after the initial shock of ready-mades was surprising; viewers found the objects to be aesthetically attractive and the burden of nostalgia, whether a historical relationship or a new encounter within the art institutional context (the bottle rack is no longer a common place object and some may encounter it for the first time as Duchamp’s art object) was ever present and contaminated his intentions. So, what is a found object?
Since the 1910’s some objects that used to be hidden away in kitchen cabinets have come to be exhibited on countertops. No longer shunned and buried in filigree, floral motifs, and gold pinstripes to hide their utilitarian purpose and cold mechanical form; a type of ownership, pride and respect(?) came to these practical objects. We developed relationships and experiences with these objects. My grandmother still prefers her mother’s 15 lb pizzelle iron that has to be flipped every 20 seconds on the stove top to her new electric iron. So, What is a found object?
Product designers toil over an object’s form and summon forth the collective aesthetic of the day to try to sell you something that you already have, because the object beckons you with it’s form that romanticizes the function, yet appears to work that much harder for you than the one you already have. So, What is a found object?
When I decide to crochet something, I grab a ball of yarn. I don’t make the yarn. I don’t shear the sheep. Some might, but I don’t…even then, isn’t the wool found on the sheep? I often buy yarn used from thrift stores. I have seen microcrystalline wax at a thrift store. I’ve seen paints and canvases at a thrift store. I’ve seen them at the transfer station. Raw materials are found materials unless I grow it on the top of my head. SO, what is a found object?
Found objects are like any other material. Objects have properties, intended uses, limitations, notions, and value just like any other material, except with the added detail of details (as in function, narrative, adornment, history, and so on). I think this element of details is what hinders some in respecting found object art. I don’t think the fact that the artist didn’t render the object from a block of marble with their front teeth is what puts off some (dare I say craftsmanship is self-inflicted by one’s own creativity in perceiving external judgment? Can one’s self be an external judge?…I get really fussy with details no body will ever see…). I think the reluctance is in the expanded awareness in the potential of objects one encounters in the everyday to create an extremely rich and complex experience when reconsidered. What happens with the expanded awareness? This!