Sunday, November 25, 2012


Lining the walls of PS1 MoMA is a group exhibition, New Pictures of Common Objects, a show highlighting the changes in how objects are viewed and distributed through today. The variety of artists produce how the common object is perceived and viewed in contemporary society, focusing on technological advances that have led to the mass distribution and enigmatic state of objects. The objects, ranging from banal household items to water, are presented by the artists in the form of photographs, videos, home appliances, or representations of luxury hygenic services. 

Lucas Blalock presents viewers with photoshopped images of items such as fruit, dishware, plants, and magazines. The different depictions of objects blur and distort the renderings, making the final product of the photos look like a collaged still life poorly rendered on photoshop. Blalock’s practice of layering and erasing parts of his images gives the images a dispsable nature. To what extent are the images of cups, plants, or domestic environments important to the composition? Blalock’s work speaks to the mass produced and dispensable nature of technologically distributed images. He extracts from plainly photographed objects and collages it with others. This is similar to how if one needs to reference an apple, all they need to do is type in the word apple into a Google search bar and thousands of images will appear on the screen for choosing.

Margaret Lee presents telephones in the form of vegetables such as eggplants or a pickles. Although mundane and funny, how often do we see such strange and lighthearted design today? Within her sculptural renditions of mass-produced appliances, she also presents the common practice of representation within the designing of commodities. Although it may seem silly to turn a pickle into a telephone, home appliances are usually imitating aesthetically appealing forms that are part of the design canon. Lee’s work brings a friendly approach to reveal the awkwardness of home decor.

Josh Kline’s work includes depictions of things as common as water. However, Kline’s work questions the extreme luxury of such a “common object”. His video in the back of the room displays people entering a penthouse bathroom overlooking the West Side Highway in New York City. As they enter, they are asked what type of water they prefer, tap or distilled water, and enter a bathtub. Large quantities of gallon jugs of the chosen water are poured into the bathtub as the participant is allowed to relax, read books, or talk about their life. The video is saturated with imagery of luxurious “necessities”: penthouse views, bottled water, spa treatment, and leisure time. Another video in the space, a high-definition slow motion video of water dripping into a puddle of water, resembles stock-imagery of water as if it were to first image to appear on Google search engine. Although it may appear to be “real”, a true recording of water, it is only an image, water dematerialized into pixels on a screen. What Kline explores in his depictions of water is the presentation of a common resource that is growing more elusive. Today, with the growing commercialization of bottled water, the element of life and hydration is becoming more accessible to those who can pay, than those who need it to survive.

The common object has become digitized, mass-produced, and enigmatic to some extent. The object can be something as flat as an image. With the dominance of the internet and other digital media, New Picture of the Common Objects could be foreshadowing a radically new future for what objecthood will mean in the future.

1 comment:

  1. You have some very good insights that I didn’t get when looking at the show, such as the dispensable nature of Blalock’s loosely treated images, and the “extreme luxury” of water as a common object. The opening and closing paragraphs are clear about the show’s intention - to explore how common objects are perceived in a society dominated by advanced technologies. However, I feel the paragraph on Margaret Lee’s vegetable phones doesn’t tie into your main argument, and you could explore further into her works’ intention (beyond the point of home decorations). If I remember correctly, the only subject matter in that room are phones (why phones?). Other than this pickle phone and another eggplant phone, there are also two photographs of phones mirroring these two objects - i feel there’s something more than just showing the common practice of home appliance design. And the last sentence of the last paragraph could be rephrased to remove the repetition of future.