The Life of Things


It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever.
Ricky Fitts, American Beauty (1)

In an economic, social, and cultural context in which material production is omnipresent, it can become haunting, excessive, bewitching, heady  in such a way that objects risk ephemerality and the loss of their sense of symbolism at any time. MOMENTA 2019 will explore the character, even the personality, taken on by objects conveyed through images. The biennale's 16th edition will present artists who examine perspectives of things in metaphysical dimensions, beyond material characteristics. The event will shed light on the universes that are built between people and their surroundings by focusing on the diverse approaches employed by artists in relation to things: compositions, constructions, alternative uses of abandoned objects, and Brassaï-esque (2) unintentional sculptures.

In the exhibitions, this theme will be reflected in explorations of how a human being is a mixture between a subject and an object, and how one can be transformed into the other. The object always ends up marked by some sort of trace, memory, or souvenir that infuses it with subjectivity. In the words of philosopher Dominique Quessada: "The object gives us signals, calls to us, summons us. In fact, it is not so much us looking at the object as it is the object looking at us." (3) In this regard, the functional and psychological weight of the object can be observed through phenomena such as fetishism, and through scientific studies on material consciousness.

The biennale will hinge on various thematic axes. In one, things will be seen as part of a timeline of individuals' existences, as diaries and abandoned monuments. The object will be analyzed from a surreal perspective, as a protagonist in the narrative of the absurd. The concept of "still life" will be problematized with regard to a reflection on the demise of nature, which is attributable today to the worldwide environmental crisis. Another axis will address the cultural importance of the object and its potentialities as an icon, symbol, or extension of specific social groups, for which it sometimes carries poetic, mystical, or esoteric connotations. The programming will also explore the materialized body and the object that is ultimately capable of performing through the human gestures that it assimilates.

A thing can be the source of a narrative and bring to life, in turn, something of which the existence is scattered.



(1) Ricky Fitts, American Beauty, Sam Mendes, 1999.

(2) Artist Brassaï (pseudonym of Gyula Halász [1899-1984]) called diverse ordinary objects, generally shaped unconsciously, "unintentional sculptures."

(3) Dominique Quessada, "Objets de non-consommation," in Le sens de l'objet (Paris: Hermès, 2017), 115 (our translation).