Arranging objects

April 3rd, 2011

‘The world of things’ is a commissioned piece for the exhibition Awfully Wonderful: Science Fiction in Contemporary Art, held at the Performance Space from April 15 to May 14, 2011 . The brief is to arrange and dress 10 objects on loan from the Powerhouse Museum. The objects are obsolete technological instruments that have now lost their contexts in our world and in doing so, they have acquired a sense of mystery and intrigue.

Extending the wunderkammer framework, my approach is to have the objects intermingled with the artworks in the exhibition and audience can navigate between objects and artworks using an annotated map. By doing so, the visitor is asked to play a more active part in the exhibition – they are invited to ponder on the connection between the artworks, between the objects, and between the artworks and the objects. The ‘lost contexts’ (historical and functional) are then replaced the experience of interaction as the visitors imagine the objects’ roles by assessing their appearances, physical size and dimensions, particular features, and so on.

The objects are lent by the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney:

Surveying instrument, circumferentor, brass/ silver/ glass, 1863 – 1864

Theodolite, copper and brass, 19th century

Musical automaton: bird in cage, c.1900 – 1902

Model, Barlow’s Wheel, consisting of copper tooth wheel, rotating with lowest teeth in mercury through set between date unknown

Phonograph, “Bijou” coin-in-the-slot cylinder, glass fronted wooden cabinet, winding handle, 1908

Spectroscope, multi-prism, metal/ glass/ wood, 1892 – 1915

Mechanical calculator, Curta Type II, metal/ Bakelite, c 1960

Personal computer, Sinclair ZX80, plastic/ metal/ fibreglass, 1980

Electromassage machine, ‘Edisawn E’ metal/ glass, 1935

Working within practical constraints, the objects are organised into 4 groups. Interestingly, this categorization has to work thematically in terms of the objects’ functions as well as physically in terms of their sizes and dimensions. Here are the groupings:

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