THING THEORY

The Boys Are Back In Town, inkjet print, 2020

Made in collaboration with Maya Sharabani and Jessica Eve Rattner.

“The unexamined life is not worth living,” states the Greek philosopher Socrates. In other words, it is the examination, the interpretation, the narration that creates meaning. Historians, in their quest to construct a historical narrative, turn to the archive in search of “primary sources.” These sources function as pieces of evidence and grant a degree of authenticity and authority to an “event” in the past story. However, both the collection and the extracted narrative reflect first and foremost people, institutions, choices, and agendas.

This project is composed of two phases creating a slightly different collection of choices. First,  local passersby were asked to choose an object from the things they carried on them that they value, or that provide insight into who they are. The objects were photographed and the owners wrote the object’s story - what gives it meaning. This became our working archive. These modern-day amulets point to a range of values, identities, anxieties, and desires.

In this exhibition, the taxonomic arrangement is rejected and the objects are re-contextualized and valued not for their productivity but for their narrative potency. Reading the collaged triptych from left to right, the narrative loosely follows the classical structure of the Hero’s Journey - in which the hero, reluctant at first, accepts a call to adventure, where deepest fears are faced and through conquering them, the hero is transformed. This fictional collaged story echoes many of the stories told by individuals about their objects - stories of loss, immigration, belonging, celebration, companionship, and family. The grossly stitched together collage highlights the act of organization itself and thus points to the existence of alternative ways to assemble and interpret.

chapter 1 final.jpg
Thing Theory tryptich chapter 3.jpg

Thing Theory (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3), archival inkjet print of digital collage, 19''x60'', 2020

Thing Theory, Installation view, Fine Ideas and Art, Oklanad, CA, 2020

Thing Theory, first phase of creating the archive - collecting stories and photographs of objects, 2020

© 2020 by Gabriella Willenz​