The Significant Objects project

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9 Responses to “The Significant Objects project”

  1. 13strong says:

    Interesting project.

    It reminds me of this comic by Kevin Huizenga, “The Hot New Thing”:

    http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101041011/comic/index.html

  2. Laroquod says:

    “The only differences are that 1) generally speaking the product is new instead of used, 2) the story is usually less specific to any individual and more generally applicable to the mass-produced nature of the product and 3) the artifice in the story is more or less deliberately concealed.”

    Oh, is that all? LOL. Anyway, perhaps both advertising and the Significant Objects project are stories, because *everything* is a story. I could just as easily say that imbuing objects with value is a religion, and then say both advertising and Significant Object are religions, on that basis. Or, we could just admit that everything can be reduced to anything, if you choose your terms broadly enough.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I actually did something similar many years ago on ebay, when it was easier to post nonsense. I set up a series of auctions for wildly ridiculous things, with very plausible stories as to why they were on sale and then waited to see if we would get queries and/or bids. In every article, we included some little tidbit that would make it obvious the story was untrue, if you really looked for it. I thought of it as a creative fiction project, as well as a test of how far people can go to convince themselves a thing is real if they want it to be. (We set very high reserves so nothing would actually “sell”).
    Our three big “auctions” were for:

    - One of Queen Elizabeth’s “retiring” corgis

    - Florida’s electric chair at Stark (at the time it was being replaced)

    - “King for a Day” of the island of Tonga, on the first day of the new millenium (the island would be first across the int’l date line)

    Not suprisingly, we had bids on every one of these auctions. Alas, they changed the rules and we were unable to post our cemetery plot next to Jim Morrison’s.

  4. thenachoking says:

    Hey, I’ve been seeing this button all over the internet and was curious where it came from. So I found this and then I also noticed that Flavorwire interviewed Rob Walker about the site and it’s future.

  5. lelagraybill says:

    It was with much interest that I read of the Significant Objects project. Last year the collaborative art duo Goatsilk—Ben Bloch and Caroline Peters—launched a nearly identical project, not as writers, but as visual/new media artists. This is from their project statement:

    For 20 working days in June 2008, Goatsilk excavated discarded objects, sites and histories from the lands around Earthquake Lake in southwest Montana. With a series of docu-dramas we envisioned the life of each item, subsequently placing them for auction on eBay. The project unfolded in real-time on our blog, eBay, Facebook and YouTube, creating a linked circuit between 3 of the Internet’s most visited sites and our own virtual outpost.

    Daily Treasures: Living off the Land! experiments with the possibilities for elevating the real value of these all but forgotten objects by restoring some significance to the reality of their loss and decay. The significance we help bring to each item may be expressed in several ways: financial capital produced through eBay sales, symbolic capital accrued with Internet popularity, and the artistic capital derived from the labor and creativity required to realize the project on a daily basis. Weaving history and memory, sentiment and satire, fiction and reality, Daily Treasures evokes the possibilities—and limitations—of “living off the land.”

    I think the parallels to the Significant Objects project are evident, with a difference of profile. My own area of scholarship is not in contemporary art, and I’m making no claims for the relative strengths or weaknesses of either project (full disclosure: Bloch and Peters are friends). But there’s no denying that name recognition and access to major media outlets plays a vital role in the value that the objects in either project are able to accrue. In truth, the issues raised here are not so much about financial capital, but about artistic and symbolic capital (as the comments above begin to suggest).

    As an art historian (in the midst of preparing for a course on “Art and the Public Sphere”) these questions are very much on my mind. In the Eighteenth century (my area) a burgeoning media culture was the key component in creating even the possibility for art as we know it now, but the ideals of democracy/meritocracy replacing aristorcracy were, of course, far from realized. I love the internet, love web 2.0, love the fact that complex projects such as Significant Objects and Daily Treasures exist. I also wonder where the limits to that complexity lie, something that contemporary scholars and critics have examined far more actively than myself. But if projects such as this can raise the question of limits, I suppose we’re on track.

    Lela Graybill
    Asst. Prof. of Art History
    University of Utah

  6. ragendem says:

    Maybe this is the scientist in me talking, but shouldn’t there also be identical or similar items on eBay that the chosen items are compared to? The items with significance should be compared to insignificant items.

  7. wanion says:

    @#3: You’re right, their experimental design leaves a lot to be desired, but on the other hand, they found a great way to get rid of their worthless crap.

  8. Jamin Hoyle says:

    I hate to tell you this, but you’ve basically just reinvented advertising. Good advertising takes a product and imbues it with some kind of story. The only differences are that 1) generally speaking the product is new instead of used, 2) the story is usually less specific to any individual and more generally applicable to the mass-produced nature of the product and 3) the artifice in the story is more or less deliberately concealed.

    Take any good ad campaign and ask yourself, “What’s the story here?” It’s a pretty fun game once you try it.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If the objects become worth anything at all, then fakes and actual copies will be put up for sale in an eyeblink.

    I wonder if it will work.

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