Object-Oriented Philosophy and Performance Art
by Paul Boshears — Europäische Universität für Interdisziplinäre Studien (the European Graduate School)
September 17, 2012 – 23:34
What is the art object in the accompanying video from artist Jayson Musson? I suspect that object-oriented philosophy will enable us to think about performance-based art in novel ways. Object-oriented philosophy arises from what Graham Harman determines to be a core fallacy in contemporary metaphysics, that the “root duality of the universe is not made up of subject and object [….], but of objects and relations.”
Is the art object the digital file, which is a text written by a computer inside Musson’s camera and that text is read by his computer that then translates the text so that a browser can read the text that the camera wrote, so that your computer performs the video in your browser? This boiling-down of an object into its smallest parts and then claiming that the collection of these small parts is an adequate description of the object is called undermining an object by Harman. Is the art object Musson’s body, in an empty space (his “alabaster alcove”) performing a script that translates his years of practice and study? The inflation of the capacity for Musson to communicate the “is-ness” of the art object is, according to Harman, to overmine the object.
The art object times and it spaces. This is one of the consequences of the object-oriented approach. As Tim Morton puts it, “If there is no top object [overmining] and no bottom object [undermining], neither is there a middle object. That is, there is no such thing as a space, or time, “in” which objects float. There is no environment distinct from objects. [….] Objects don’t sit in a box of space or time. It’s the other way around: space and time emanate from objects.” Because object-oriented philosophy holds that any relation between any two objects automatically produces distortion all objects relating are generative entities. Relationships create differences. My distorting of the original is to be expected, according to the object-oriented thinking all translations are “lossy” and this loss or distortion in the translation from one object relating to another is at the core of performance art.
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