The Historia Supellexalis: “O” for Objectification

The Historia Supellexalis O for Objectification


A Curse; A Malediction; A Poison

Amongst all animals the ability to attract the attention of others is of fundamental importance in numerous contexts, not least in context of attracting the interest of a potential mate; an attracting of others that is undertaken via a number of innately understood signals, signals that can be transmitted by smell or by sound but regularly are visual: form, colour, proportion, scale, etc used individually or in combination to convey unspoken messages.

As animals, humans also naturally and regularly employ a wide range of signals for attracting others, again not least in context of attracting the interest of a potential mate; signals which, as with those of other animals, can be acoustic or olfactory but are more often than not physical. Yet whereas with all other animals the reading of a signal is an innate, inherent action, with humans that reading is subject to the influence of cultural conditioning: rather than reading a visual signal innately, the human reading of a visual signal involves processing that signal through acquired frameworks, through learned filters, through a system of social conventions. Conventions, filters and frameworks reinforced and normalised by popular mass media of all genres which lead the human to subjectively evaluate the qualities of other humans. Subjective evaluations of quality based on physical characteristics, subjective evaluations based on form, colour, proportion, scale, etc, that for a great many centuries defined the basis of how one understood, related to and treated others. Defined how society functioned.

However, as human society evolved humans developed the ability to question those prevailing conventions, filters and frameworks, the ability to disengage from the conditioning of popular mass media of all genres; initially only in very small numbers, but over the centuries the ability slowly expressed itself in ever greater numbers of individuals. And as it did those individuals began to evaluate others anew, to evaluate them on the basis of their personality, their character, their essence, etc. Not their form, colour, proportion, scale, etc as popular mass media of all genres stipulated one should. And as they did they began to reflect not only on the error of basing evaluations of others on physical characteristics, but of the very real dangers for a society thus founded. Began to reflect on and appreciate the fact that a society founded on evaluations of others based on their personality, their character, their essence, etc allowed for societies that were not only much more equitable and open and rewarding than those of the past, but also much more responsive, more durable, more peaceful. We’re devoid of much of the source of many of the ills that plagued human society. And thus enabled much more sophisticated and advanced and much, much, more fun societies than those humans had previously developed. Began to reflect that continuing to base evaluations of others on responses to form, colour, proportion, scale, etc would inevitably inhibit and stall the development of human society.

However, not only did the early centuries of human evolution see humans develop the habit of evaluating the qualities of others based on a reading of physical characteristics, but the human species in its infinite curiosity also applied the same practices to evaluating the objects of daily use with which they surrounded themselves: whereas in the very, very earliest human societies chairs, tables, bookcases et al were but necessities, much as other humans were once simply your neighbours and colleagues, over time, and in conjunction with developments and evolutions in human society, objects of daily use became imbued with a subjective evaluation based on their physical characteristics, subjective evaluations which saw objects of daily use become capable of being coveted, a covetousness, as with the evaluating, and coveting, of other humans, processed through learned, acquired conventions, filters and frameworks reinforced and normalised by popular mass media of all genres.

Yet, whereas over time humans developed, if only very slowly, the ability stop evaluating other humans on their physical characteristics alone, to disengage from medial conditioning, humans still continue to view, to evaluate, the goods with which they surround themselves in context of their conditioned reading of physical characteristics. A habit that a great many unscrupulous tribes very quickly learned to employ; a great many unscrupulous tribes quickly learning that by adding a few simple visual signals, a few easily readable visual characteristics, to their products they could harness the centuries of conditioning to lead people to feel attracted to, and to buy, their products on the basis that they believed they were buying something meaningful, something relevant, something good. But which they weren’t.

And through such insidious behaviour a great many honest and upstanding tribes found themselves and their traditions increasingly and openly appropriated and abused in the most appalling and outrageous fashions by much less honest and upstanding tribes. Among those many recorded abuses one notes in particular the suffering of the community of Bauhaus as their considerations on relationships between the supply of objects of daily use and contemporary society became reduced to a definable form; the residents of Memphis whose slow, diligent, considerations on function and functionality and the complex relationships between objects and users have been demeaned to simply something a bit colourful and squint; while the various, and for all varied, peoples of northern Europe have repeatedly suffered under the actions of the former Danish King Mark Edsføring and his tales of the fabled land of Scandi with its perfection of the forming and production of furniture. A mischievous, despicable, fabrication reborn and magnified in the abhorrent torment of Hygge.

But it is not just such tribes who suffer, it is us all, a fact the Milanese piantagrane Joe col Ombo sought to explain, arguing in context of a disputation in Paris that through such actions, through the supply of such dishonest, disingenuous objects of daily use the “human habitat” invariably, inevitably, becomes polluted with “pseudo-cultural object]s]”, the commercial “product of neo-capitalist industry”, “isolated objects carried by the flow of fashion”, rather than objects arising from and serving as components of and contributors to contemporary society. And the necessity of initiating a “methodological and coordinated discourse” to counter the inevitable consequences of the actions of the unscrupulous tribes.

And just one of many voices which over the centuries have warned of the error of evaluating objects of daily use on their physical characteristics alone, and of the dangers of those who seek to exploit medial reinforced and normalised conventions, filters and frameworks, those who simplify objects of daily use to a few lazily applied terms and physical definitions for the sake of commercial interests or by way of aiding and abetting the selling of coffee table books. Or voices who at least sought to warn of the errors and dangers: col Ombo’s Milanese contemporary N. Zomari, for example, and amongst a great many other acts of public defiance and agitation, ordering everyone to make their own furniture by way of breaking the centuries of conditioning and allowing them to return to more inherent understandings of furniture; albeit self-make furniture designed by Zomari which humans subsequently assessed on their physical characteristics and began to covet because of their association with Zomari. Or the Berlin Schreiner Stilett ‘Ostudio who linked the abuse and appropriation of other tribes with the unthinking consumption manipulated by the unscrupulous in a lounge chair; a lounge chair in which he invited consumers to rest. And in which they had no choice but to, and to thereby reflect on the furniture we use and choose and are told to use and choose; but a lounge chair which ended up on museum display shelves where visitors pointed at it and commented on its physical characteristics. And chuckled at it. Or a Verner på Ton who asked, is design today art or styling? Do furniture and interior design stores present new ways and experiments? Do you want more individualism [in interiors] or is it about business or fashion? Is a feeling of well-being primarily the discerning of pleasant proportions, good colour and material combinations, comfortable lighting by day and pleasing evening lighting? Why do people with so-called “good taste” agree so much about what is good? Does “good taste” exist?; but whose deliberations and elucidations have, as with those of the poor people of Memphis, been reduced to something a bit colourful and squint which anyone can recreate. Or Et-lille Barn who bravely pronounced, “But he has nothing on”.

Yet despite the many, many warnings issued over the centuries by wise sages, human society to this day continues to fail to appreciate that while there is nothing wrong in finding a chair formally pleasing and one can take pleasure in the silhouette of a table or flows and curves of a lamp, those physical characteristics cannot be used as the basis for defining a piece of furniture, cannot be the basis for placing qualities on a piece of furniture, the basis for evaluating a piece of furniture, the basis for your relationship with a piece of furniture.

Fail to appreciate that much as there are unscrupulous individuals out there who conceal what they really are behind a false facade they have learned will be assessed positively in the hope of taking advantage of you, so to are there unscrupulous tribes who employ physical signals to enrich themselves at your expense; nor appreciate that as with humans a lot of objects of daily use are lacking in personality, character, essence, are lacking that which is important not only for establishing a relationship, but for ensuring the ongoing health of a relationship.

Fail to appreciate that just as evaluating other humans on subjective conditioned responses to form, colour, proportion, scale, etc can but inhibit and stall the development of human society, so to assessing objects of daily use on their physical characteristics alone means not only can our objects of daily use never evolve, but new objects of daily use for new realities, new societies, cannot be meaningfully and effectively developed. A dissociation of the link between object and society that can but harm the future development of that society.

Fail to appreciate the connection between the error and dangers of focussing on form, colour, proportion, scale, etc rather than personality, character, essence etc of an other human being and of focussing on the physical what of an object of daily use rather than the whys, hows and wherefores of an object of daily use…….

…….à suivre

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