The System of Objects
Shanghai Books &Picture Publishing House
During the past few years, object has triggered more and more discussion among the realms of cultural theory and contemporary philosophy. Such discussion could be generally categorized into two patterns. One is a cultural and political pattern, according to which the contemporary society has entered a stage of massive accumulation of objects. Being the most prominent sign of the consumer society, objects due to its strong autonomy are imposing substantial pressure on man, leading to the emergence of a new kind of fetishism. Under the influence of commodity fetishism by Marx, Walter Benjamin and Georg Lukács in early 20th century and Roland Barthes and Jean Baudrillard in late 20th century all treated object as an important topic of study. The other is a philosophical pattern. For long philosophy has considered objects as a realm intricately and inevitably connected with man. When talking about objects, we refer to objects from the perspective of man. It’s pointless to talk about objects if not taking man into consideration. Such is the simplest description of the relation between man and object since Kant and Heidegger. However, today’s young and radical philosophers put forward “Speculative Realism”, advocating that objects have their own domain and can be liberated from man’s perspective and its connection with man. Objects have the domain, destiny and noumenon of their own. An object-oriented ontology is under formation.
In the light of the above theory and with an insight into the development of Chinese contemporary artistic practice concerning “object”, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum selected some of the most representative object-related artworks created by Chinese contemporary artists during the past two decades. Collectively they compose the “system of objects” of Chinese contemporary art, casting light on artists’ pondering on objects, changes in people’s view about objects, the development and destiny of objects in contemporary Chinese society, and most fundamentally, how man manages to establish his own image through his connection with objects.
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