Displayed Things - Triptych of the Object
The piece investigates our relationship to the object by displaying three bronzes which are casts of real objects. The traits of the “real” objects are represented but can barely withstand the depiction process. Our relationship to the thing displayed - the thing offered up for viewing - is inherently of a fetishistic nature. I have casted the following objects:
- A raspberry muffin poisoned with root of Munkshood (containing the deadly nerve poison aconitine)
- A copy of a boot worn by Karl XI in the late 17th century, which I commissioned shoemaker Severino Zia (Malmö) to make
- Male and female genitals combined in a sexual organ that defies categorization
The art object is by nature fetishistic as it has - in a social context - been given a special value and power that has become “real”.
This is also valid for the art object as a commodity. Marx argued that a similar sort of perception arises in trade, where special powers are attributed to the traded objects and their relationships, to the extent that people believe and act as though these powers are the natural, inherent characteristics of the traded objects, and theorize about them from this viewpoint. Since social relationships are described in the same terms as those between traded objects, it begins to look as if social characteristics - such as value and exchangeability - are the natural, intrinsic properties of the objects being exchanged.
Sexual fetishism means desire for an object or a body part which is not usually considered to be sexual, and is not an example of identification with the object or of role play.
Fetishism as a religious or anthropological term comes from the Portuguese feitico (amulet) which was used by Portugese salesmen about phenomena they observed on the west coast of Africa in the 16th century. Hand made or found objects where used in religion and magic. Within the field of religious anthropology the term fetishism was used when describing west- and central African religious practice, and later applied to similar phenomena all over the world.
Fetishism in this context refers to a symbolic attribution of power to an object to the extent that one believes and acts as if the fetish object really had that power, and this power even seems to be inherent in the object, rather than being a human projection. In reality this power is not at all inherent in the object. But in social behaviour it is enough that a sufficient number of people believe and act as if it had that power, then the object can function as if it did.
The art object is fetishistic by nature as it is - in a social context - attributed a special value and power, which has become real.
The depicted “thing” brings with it the idea of its original function, into the fiction. An exhibited poisoned muffin is still deadly, an exhibited casted muffin is not.
The real can never be depicted, although it seems to be art’s only real motive.
But the effort of attempting this depiction gives rise to thoughts which otherwise cannot be thought.