the Power of
Objects and their
By JORI SACKIN
Objects embody a social force which affects our behavior in subconscious ways. They come pre-packed with social meaning and while they can be personally interpreted in a variety of ways, they are typically interpreted only a few ways within a specific group. For example, hand sanitizers are a reminder of cleanliness and purity, and the swastika is a reminder of evil and fascism. We do not personally come to these associations. They come pre-built with social meaning largely determined by society. While someone can be ignorant of social implications of an object, that ignorance is not a testament to lack of social power, only a lack of exposure.
Objects can influence not only the how people behave in relation to one another, but how people see themselves. We have an idea that we are autonomous individuals floating through a public space while giving personal meaning and interpretation to objects around us. It might be more accurate to say that the objects around us hold a concentrated social meaning that redefines and shapes us. Much like an object sitting in physical space warps the gravity around it, an object sitting in social space warps the social gravity around it as well. The intensity with which an object affects the space is relational to the power the society gives it, as well as the personal significance it might have in an individual's creation of their life story.
Before discussing how objects affect one's behavior, it is necessary to first explain the idea of embodiment, or how we perceive these objects. The study, •Embodiment in Attitudes, Social Perception, and Emotion• (•Personality and Social Psychology Review•, 2005) asserts that we perceive things by physically embodying them. A simple example is that we feel empathy towards others by internally recreating how we perceive that person is feeling. They go on to make the distinction between online and offline embodiment. Online embodiment is active in the environment. I see a woman crying in front of me. I embody her emotions, I feel what I imagine she is feeling. Offline embodiment is that once removed from the object, thinking about it and mentally recreating it, or reacting to symbols that invoke it, also cause us to embody it in the same way as the actual object being present. An example would be how viewing a painting of a mother and daughter hugging creates the same physical reaction as remembering a hug or seeing a hug.
Two scientific studies are clear examples of the embodiment of objects and their social meaning. Erik G. Helzer and David A. Pizarro (2010, Cornell University) placed a hand sanitizer at the end of a hallway. People were then led out into the hallway and either directed toward the hand sanitizer or away from it (the other end). The people who made moral decisions closer to the hand sanitizer answered the moral questions more conservatively than the people that were directed away from it.
The Power of Objects >>
New South Wales Public Health Poster.
Sarah Hearn, Symbiotic Cooperation, 2013., detail.
Nature of Nature, Interventions, and Possibilities
Rare Earth features work that borrows materials and figures from the natural world to reevaluate the nature of nature and examine the many landscapes we all inhabit. Geodes, lichen, wind and water, fungi and fauna explore the possibilities of symbiosis, the nterventions of pollution, and imaginatively refigure the terrestrial through painting, photography and sculpture. Considering human mediation into all the ecologies we encounter, Rare Earth offers viewers new modes of seeing the world around them. Sarah Hearn's lichen installations investigate how humans collaborate with, understand, and mimic small unassuming forms in nature.
Rare Earth >>
David Ford, Sunshine Kingdom, 2013, detail.
A Painterly Cultural Footprint in a Personal History
In A Neighborly Gaze, David Ford shows recent work that explores the recognition by one culture of another, one human embarking onto the bridge of faith, class, character, or continent, which often divide, even as the backyard fence is pierced by social media and comparatively easy interface. Shadows of philosophy and incongruous intentions are laced throughout these works, hoping for lingering possibilities as in an unforeseen synchronicity of Islam and Vodun. David Ford has experienced these over the past year by following a decade in which he traces the African diaspora at the time of the Louisiana Purchase.
David Ford >>
Justin Beachler, Untitled, 2012, acrylic on found image, detail.
Homage to Minimalism, Hunter-Gatherer Aesthetic
By BLAIR SCHULMAN
While not awash in overly finessed aesthetics, Justin Beachler’s first solo show at Dolphin Gallery does instigate some good questions about artistic processes, consumer ethos and iconography. Srimary Ptructures is an exhibition with a wealth of potential, but oscillates statically in places. Not everything seen here jibes on a single wavelength. What seems a good idea in theory, the "Less is More" philosophy presented to us doesn’t hold up as strongly as I think it could be. He makes work from trash bags, wood, Artforum magazines as well as other found objects.
Justin Beachler >>
Dolphin Gallery and the Upside
of That Which
is not Forever
By BLAIR SCHULMAN
After 24 years and four locations, John O’Brien’s Dolphin Gallery is closing its doors but rather than mourn its passing, consider it an opportunity for visual art culture in Kansas City. Dolphin Gallery is a space that has shown great work over the years and it will be missed. However, the majestic status of the traditional "‘white cube" is in need of a transformation and now is the time for Kansas City, with its wealth of raw space and smart thinkers, to continue implementing ideas in unusual places that demand richer, stranger, and more innovative curatorial themes.
Kansas City is in the benefit column creatively and geographically. Rather than run off immediately after completing art degrees, artists tend to stay behind for the low-end housing stock and lower-end studio space.
A sword of Damocles may hang over ;the miasma of the visual art culture with the risk of losing emerging talent due to Kansas City’s lack of an MFA program and the cultural community should be worried.
Though remote from the country's art centers, being dead center in the country, our artists can take advantage of living and making work here. They have the ability to haul their work to larger art cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles in a matter of hours — a respectable place in the North American arts ecosystem.
With the demise of Dolphin and the musical chairs in local arts institutions in the last several years, the question remains: does the pristine "white cube" environment equate to blue chip work? Why would Kansas City mimic such an ideal at all? Artist Carla Malone Steck says, “I started a nonprofit ten years ago because I actually hate galleries and white cubes, wanted to get the art out to the people, the common man, so to speak. I still see Kansas Cityunfortunately tied to the white cube and artists still putting faith in the cube.”
There are other environments to consider. Artist Garry Noland says, “We have some great not-for-profit, academic galleries and artist-run spaces. (Is there) Somebody (who) can step in here … Belger (Arts Center)? The Corporate Art Fund? Doug Drake and Elizabeth Kirsch are also in the mix.” Drake and Kirsch, (married partners) owned a gallery at 45th Street and State Line Road in the 1970s and before that, 57th Street in New York City.....says Noland, “they are both highly perceptive, intuitive and visually savvy people and still dealing art privately.”
After Dolphin >>
Interior of Dolphin Gallery.