11 February – 8 April 2017

Kate V Robertson Object(hood)

#talbotrice | #object(hood)



Exploring our relationship to the material world, Kate V Robertson’s Object(hood) extracts eight unique artefacts from the University of Edinburgh’s vast collections, orchestrating them in such a way that their historical narratives come up against the transient meanings they generate as things.

In the last two decades there has been a breakdown of the traditional distinctions between a subject and an object, with an increasing focus on the 'thing' as a mediator in both human and non-human relationships. In this ambitious exhibition, this contemporary way of thinking is manifest by a large sculptural cabinet that emanates moving-images and spoken word, changing weekly in response to one of the eight artefacts.

The artefacts include: a brain coral, a Gandharan sculpture fragment, a large mannequin head cast by Eduardo Paolozzi, an anatomical eye model, a Bersag Horn, large conch trumpet, the figure of Mercury and a death mask of Isaac Newton. Also including creative written responses, Object(hood) represents multiple encounters, with writers, academics and the artist, to allow fascinating historical trajectories to emerge alongside creative interpretations of innate properties.

Object(hood) is a play on words, shifting between the noun and the verb meaning of ‘object’; with a ‘hood’ being both a covering for a thing but also the ‘state or condition of being’. It is also an explicit art historical reference. In the essay Art and Objecthood the modernist critic Michael Fried attacked aspects of minimalism – what he termed literalism – for its reliance on ‘non-art’ forms; “The literalist espousal of objecthood amounts to nothing other than a plea for a new genre of theatre; and theatre is now the negation of art.” From a contemporary perspective Fried’s view of art – one that excludes a consideration of the beholder and the situation in which something is viewed – is untenable. ‘Objecthood’ is now the condition of contemporary art, co-existing with the other human and non-human things of the world.