Jonathan Jones talks about reassuring rubbish – I think the objects we own tell wonderful stories about people & places

Jonathan Jones has written a piece about an exhibition in New York about collections and collectors. It looks fascinating. The headline for his text is “New York art show The Keeper celebrates our poetic obsession with objects, but how many of us simply surround ourselves with familiar, reassuring rubbish?”

I beg to differ. It all depends on the context. If the context is a high profile art exhibition of objects that have been curated with quirkiness and value in mind, then maybe he is right. But if the context is a genuine investigation into how we relate to some of the objects we choose to keep, and the stories they tell of our personal history, our family’s and lives, then the objects we keep are far more than reassuring rubbish. They map our genealogy.

My research into the Story of Objects is revealing some fascinating insights into what these talismanic objects can hold for people.  They speak of our past and they also possess a future, which interestingly, few refer to unless asked. Yet people often leave objects in their wills to their loved ones, but do they tell their story to the recipients? Often, without the associated narrative, those precious things become yet another orphaned object, to be dropped off at the local charity shop as soon as the funeral is over.

In doing workshops with young and old, rarely does anyone struggle to think of a special object they own. Never have they refused to tell me why it is important to them and when they do tell me it is often the first time they have articulated that story, to anyone, ever.

I’m looking deeper into this phenomena and one of the things I’m exploring is how to capture the elements of those stories visually – not as art, not as catalogue, but as a visual record of their narrative. I’m piloting the thinga.me app and below is my first try at storyboarding with it. It is quite limited, but efficient. I’m inclined to more pared-down with my visuals, as my own graphic identity suggests. But it’s worth exploring and testing it.

This board is about something I have used for many things, a found object retrieved from a burnt out garage of a house that became my parents much-loved home. A glass bowl that has, in its lifetime, lived on a dressing table, held screws in a garage, contained earrings and now holds coconut cream.  It is a beautiful thing and a pleasure to handle – the glass is fine, the bevelled edges delicate. The silver top is dented yet still clips onto the rim securely.

It may literally hold things as a vessel, for utilitarian purposes, but it also holds memories of my parents favourite home. My parents bought it following a serious house fire and the old lady that had lived there was taken to a safer place to live.  My father died in Clematis Cottage and it was right that he should. My mother stayed for as long as she could, until she moved out just as the previous owner had.

This little pot is not just a memory of my parents home, it is also a connection to my past. It is a conduit for emotions.

I’ve tried to connect both people and places in the storyboard – am not sure it says as much as it should. I’d appreciate feedback if anyone has any.

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