UNIT 4 Contextual Essay


An investigation into how we project ourselves onto inanimate objects and how collections can form inventories of identity within different artistic ways.

By Yiting Liu, (13,Aug, 2019)

This essay begins by exploring my interests in objects. Start by questioning our relationship to objects and how they seem to resonate with personal meanings. How does objects as an inanimate thing that can hold our memories and how collections can form our identity. Continuing with a short discussion about making distinctions between collecting, accumulations and hoarding through the book- On collecting (Pearce, 2013). I will also look at how Jean Baudrillard discourse the non-functional system of objects and several ways to understand how people’s possessions (objects) imply a story – and how artists reflect these ideas in their artistic practices. In addition, I try to reveal a deeper connection between human and objects through the objects of mourning and memory. To conclude, I will put forth the idea of seeing the whole collecting process or a group of art works as an evocative object for the collectors and artists. Questioning about why showing the collection to the public and why the various artists are revealing often intimate things to a public audience in the psychology perspectives.


“We find it familiar to consider objects as useful or aesthetic, as necessities or vain indulgences but on less families ground when we consider objects as companions to our emotional lives or as provocative to thought” (Turkle, 2011, pg5). With these two ideas, I start to dig into the stories of objects around me and questioning about why people collect things. It can be an actual object, a text, a song, an antique, a photo or a collection within a space. Objects, as the most familiar and unfamiliar thing in our life, how they speak for themselves as an inanimate thing and how they can possibly hold our memories. Even more, how the objects can throw as back to a specific moment that often related to humans strong feeling of the past. As written in Daniel Miller’s book “The best way to understand, convey and appreciate our humility is through attention to our fundamental materiality”. (Miller, 2010)


I start my investigation by reading Evocative Objects (Turkle, 2011). “In this collection of autobiographical essays, Scientists, humanists, artists, and designers trace the power of objects in their lives, objects that connect them to ideas and to people (Turkle, S, 2011, pg5)”. This book starts from revealing the author’s own story about how she grew up spending lots of time in the old cabinet which belongs to her grandparents and her curious about the history of her family. I believed that we all grew up hoping that objects would connect us to the world. Through her story, I have a much clear learning about how we see objects in our lives. To begin with, the objects is just an object and then we find some of them that can trace back to someone or a specific moment. After that, the object starts to serve as marker or say as a clue to the relationship and emotional connections. From this point, if we lose the object we might have the feelings of distress but in the same time we might start to really think about them as we never thought of them that much. Just like Turkle reveal her story in this book, when she first far away from home, knowing that all the stuff in the old cabinet were gone. She “was distressed at the loss of the objects but somewhat comforted to realize that I now had a set of ideas for thinking about them.” (Turkle, S, 2011, pg4)