I have been reading about the cult of less, an initiative by a young software engineer, Kelly Sutton, to get rid of everything he owns by digitizing all his possessions, and then keeping the few cherished objects, selling the ones that could benefit other people and ship the rest of the goods he owns but don’t interest him.
In a BBC interview, Kelly is described as the '21st-Century minimalist’; he says he “got rid of much of his clutter because he felt the ever-increasing number of available digital goods have provided adequate replacements for his former physical possessions.” He got rid of most of his assets, apart from his iPad, Kindle, laptop and a few other items, replacing his actual records with mp3s, his photographs are now digitized and uploaded on Flickr, he credits his external hard drives and online services like Hulu, Facebook, Skype and Google Maps for allowing him to lead a minimalist life.
Other people seem to be following the same trend, that of dissolving the objects into digital data and living “clutter-less” and “light”.
In a further research, Sherry Turkle, current director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, writes in “Evocative Objects” about the power everyday things, she cherishes objects as “emotional and intellectual companions that anchor memory, sustain relationships, and provoke new ideas. According to Turkle, “the simplest objects are shown to bring philosophy down to earth” and her idea of “evocative objects” goes far to say that objects carry both ideas and passion. And the role of objects she discusses in her book vary from design and play, to discipline and desire, history and exchange, mourning and memory, transition and passage, meditation and new vision.
On another note, I was at the British Museum few days ago and I got to see one of the shows that they have created along with BBC Radio 4 series. The show is “A history of the World in 100 objects”, the idea being a series of selected objects grouped together to give meaning to the historical context and make connections across the world. Each grouped series explore a common theme and portray a certain era.
So on Sherry Turkle’s list of describing the objects, I would add, objects as mapping tools, and objects as reflective of history, and objects as clutter (based on the British Museum experience and the Kelly Sutton cult).
Now art and design seem to be always reflective of the context, and here I figured so are objects.