Articles by Vik

The Impossible Object

By Vik Muniz

When the industrial productive capacity ultrapassed society’s consume capacity the product became less important than its image. We live today in a world of images which we do not only consume but also we have started to communicate through the mechanisms that fabricate them. Any intention of subverting such situation can be perceived as a challenge though the ever shrinking space for creative thought is located precisely where we not only transgress but also dissect and expose some of the these mechanisms.

There is a great cheese shop down on First Avenue, where I go quite often, often enough to notice that the person behind the counter never displays a cheese without first cutting off one eighth of it. When I asked why he did that, he blantly answered, “It’s obvious….otherwise it won’t look like cheese.” To analyze the tensions between the objects and their images one must negotiate the position of the object in the historical time with the object itself, and the history of its own making.

It is 3:30 A.M. and the plane crosses the Atlantic on the route Rio-Madrid. At this altitude the outside world seems to be of little or no importance. Inside, on the contrary everything has a specific value which has been dictated by its utility Everything inside the plane seems to be essential and in the present tense. Useful goods are designed not to have a memory (hints about their construction) or a future (technological overlaying advances). Taken by this form of useful and civilized schizophrenia I start to search my bag for personal photos or a stupid or meaningless ornament (now I understand why Sartre wanted a grotesque meaningless ornament over the mantelpiece in the set of Huis Clos). I search for Proust’s Madeleine, a divining rod. Freakish, stupid, something that would not compete or criticize the system which now my life depends on. Instead something that would show me other ways to deal with such a system (In Sartre’s play every object in the set is used: the second empire chairs, the knife, the door, except the ornament. Garcin never suspected the only exit to the hellish fate of the “ living” eternally in the present tense resided precisely in the contemplation of that object, the merciful gift of the author to his characters). Out of the window the earth is a massive object, dumb and unique. But from down near its elements interact not so different from the elements in this airplane’s interior.

The broken, the dwarfed, amputated, retarded, the residual. One can make of failure a working strategy (in fact one can be quite successful in failing). Like the bad magician transcends illusion, failure in the only device one can use to understand reality. The object or the picture has to fail (in a sort of Christian fashion) for you to meditate upon it (remember 3 miles inland?) But since failure is also a mans invention (who else would invent a plane crash or a flat tire) the failing object , before it fails, has to conquer a certain complicity with the viewer (Clown seduction?!?)

Galatea and Pinocchio failed as objects to become human. But its good to remember that they were “more human” as objects than after their change. Pinocchio and Galatea are exceptions, mistakes that may change the way and order in which we perceive all the other wooden puppets or Greek statues. Like a vaccine they were processed and given back to the world of object (although they became humans they area always referred to as puppet and statue).

The Golden , the frigid Tin Man of Oz and Disney’s singing and dancing household appliances are for the storyless industrialized goods what the movie stars and circus freaks are for factory or office workers: the ultimate customized reflection, a vehicle for transcendence. Handmade or handbroke, used, overgrown, dwarfed or simply pathetic, the art object should always behave like a freak, a continuous changing twisted mirror, challenging, cheating, destroying and outlining the meaning and importance of all the things around us.