“But after a time allowed for it to swim,
“Instead of proving human when it neared
“and someone else additional to him,
“as a great buck it powerfully appeared.”
We are creatures built for encounters. Some of our favorite past times revolve around meeting new people, talking to them, passing a judgment, and, if we are lucky, understanding them a little. This is who we are – frequently judgmental, occasionally insightful, hopelessly social, and hopefully, empathetic. These are traits we living beings picked up from our encounters with fellow living beings.
Once in a while, however, this peculiar chance presents itself to us: to encounter not a person, but an object. Not to simply see and acknowledge it, but to meet it; not to simply consider it, but to empathize with it; not to see it through our eyes, but to see ourselves through its eyes. This moment is almost always fleeting, indecipherable, and indescribable; we feel it for a moment – and often walk away with a cautious shrug, unable to tell anyone precisely what we felt. What we felt, however, was a kind of encounter – an encounter with a nonliving being, a greeting from the universe, a momentary conversation with Everything Else. The Living Things Exhibit has one aim – to make the conversation longer.
Our penchant for using objects as metaphors is well documented. Dutch still life is replete with depictions of spoiled fruit, bones, half-empty glasses, and human skulls – objects that represent our fears, our mortality, and us. The work of a few newer artists (such as Antonio Lopez Garcia) expands on that idea. An object is no longer a symbol. The sense of time and decay tells us the story of the object; our story, merely one of many, takes a back seat to the stories of Everything Else. Changed and molded by time, the object lives a non-life, emphatically still and indifferently different.
We too are objects. The human body – our first birthday gift, a collection of mechanical and electric machinery, is among the most familiar and least understood objects. Intricate and capricious, it has its own rules that we are not privy to. It grows and withers, it becomes hungry, it lusts after other bodies, it gives away our deepest secrets. Sometimes it is treated as a tool, traded for pleasure and, in its workings, it remains an object – an object that frustrates, fascinates, and inspires. Only in death does the body reveal what it truly is – a thing, an object, a story of Everything Else. The living world of animals and botany all live to tell this tale, a union of universal conversation. This connection of the living world and the world of things has inspired many artists throughout centuries – to this day.
The artists exhibited in Living Things continue and expand on this tradition, bringing their unique contemporary vision of the bizarre and eloquent world of the insentient. Acknowledging and celebrating the materiality of their work the artists of Living Things talk to the viewer with the voice of Everything Else.