Pillar-Like Objects: An Anecdoted Topography of MINT

I am proud to announce that I have recently joined the MINT Collective in Columbus. Here is a description of the collective’s mission:

MINT is a collaborative, multidisciplinary space founded and operated by artists located in Columbus, Ohio. Abidingly fresh, adaptable, and dynamic, our mission at MINT is to support underrepresented and developing artists, to cultivate relationships within the community, to embrace alternative projects, and to remain persistently disobedient to traditional thinking.

As I am not an artist, becoming a member means that I will use my role as an educator, writer and curator to engage, support and promote the work of MINT artists. One way I wanted to do this was to devote one Minus Plato post a week (during this period of blogging every day) to MINT – the collective projects as a group, exhibitions and the work of individual artists. Of course, Minus Plato is a space for exploring the dynamic between Classics and contemporary art, so one way in which my weekly MINT posts will function is as a space to consider what it means for a Classicist to be part of an artistic collective? At the same time, I want to use the fact that I am a part of MINT to transform Minus Plato into a site of collective action and reflection. As part of this project I will ask my fellow MINT members to work with me on the blog, not only in providing me with topics to discuss, but also by using the ‘Comments’ section to add further information on their work and the particular topic under discussion.

For today, as part of the last two posts in which I transitioned from the topic of ‘names’ to that of ‘objects’, I asked the MINT members to send me a list any mundane objects that they incorporated into their art works. Here are the objects I have received so far (note: I will mark any text from MINT collective artists in my blog-posts by the colour red):

road side couch cushions
cars
grass
fish tanks
old windows
window blinds
school desks
chocolate
picture frames
quilt blankets
towels
bread boxes
sprinkles
brown sugar

As the title of this post betrays, one of the reasons I asked for this list of re-purposed objects within a collective discussion was to create something modestly comparable to Daniel Spoerri’s project An Anecdoted Topography of Chance. In this conceptual-literary masterpiece, Spoerri creates an inventory of all the mundane objects that populate his desk and annotates the inventory with a series of notes and conversations with others (whose names or initials are added in capital letters), including Robert Filliou, Emmett Williams and Dieter Roth.

In asking for this list of MINT objects, I was specifically thinking about Spoerri’s entry on object 46a: a burnt match. Spoerri uses this defunct, useless object to describe how discarded commodities become symbols and images:

One can call symbols discarded commodities, because commodities – so long as you need them – lead an unconscious or unseen life, because they exist down in the unconscious of the people who use them (the hammer lives in the hand, the shoe lives beneath the foot, the match lives up front, before the cigar, and so on and so forth), and the commodities only first rise up into the so-called consciousness when – on being thrown away, say – they fly past your eyes and their image flies into them and slips into your brain where it calls out its name (e.g. “Here’s match!”). And when the discarded commodity summons its image and calls out its name up there in the brain, the person listens intently inside, or outside, and the person sees all manner of different things in the process – not just the falling match, for instance, but also sticks and stakes and staves and pillar-like objects and much more. And when he sees inside himself pillars he hears pillars simultaneously, and he hears pillars and killers and then he thinks for instance of thrillers and so on and so forth. These images, the images of discarded objects – with their train of kindred images and sounds behind them – sometimes have, or can have, a train that contains the whole world.

As a Classicist, Spoerri’s example of the ‘falling match’ leading to ‘pillar-like objects’ immediately evoked broken pillars or columns scattered on ancient sites (I actually have a broken plaster-cast column in my office on campus). I am also reminded of broken ancient pillars and columns in works of contemporary art, such as John Miller’s golden ruins installation at his 2009 exhibition at the Kunsthalle Zurich.

What I wanted to ask my fellow MINT members by writing this post is: what symbols or images emerge from discarded objects when they became re-purposed as parts of art works? As a falling match becoming a pillar-like object resonates with someone who studies the ancient world in the image of scattered, broken columns, how do art works, like John Miller’s, add another dimension to the original object? In other words, how do art works that use brown sugar or grass, window blinds or road side couch cushions turn into images and symbols for the artists who made them? To offer a concrete example, what are the symbolic implications of grass for Liz Roberts‘ work, such as the piece Below Your Mind, which was both physically installed in the MINT space and was activated part of a performance and film?

I hope that these weekly posts and the discussion they generate in the ‘Comments’ section will be the start of something new, both for Minus Plato and the MINT Collective.

For more info on MINT and its member artists, click here.

4 thoughts on “Pillar-Like Objects: An Anecdoted Topography of MINT

  1. Thank you, Richard, for having the best possible reaction to my Robin Hood-esque OSU–>MINT maneuver when grass first manifested as a material for me. Institutional oval lawns, sustainability, freedom, mud and death in a warehouse. All these issues came up with “Ass Gas or Grass: Nobody Rides for Free” and “Below Your Mind.” Later, the grass work turned into “Lawncare” and thinking about people forming community and caring for each other. I am so glad you are now part of the MINT community, welcome!

    1. Minus Plato

      Thanks for the response, Liz! I love the expanded ideas surrounding your work with grass, especially the community-forming aspect. I’m honoured to be a part of such a community at MINT! Richard

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