Objectshave a fundamental sentimental value; we use them not only for theirfunctionality but keep them for the relationship we have with them in our everydaylives. The use of found objects within art can be problematic, as the value theyhold can change the way we interact with an art piece that contains theseobjects. The juxtaposition of, often clinical, gallery spaces with familiar,everyday objects influences our interaction with them and how we perceive apiece. Object-oriented ontology,originating from Martin Heidegger, postulates that metaphysically humanexistence should not be privileged above nonhuman objects.
This homogenising ofman and thing could affect the way the use of found object is perceived in anartwork. The phrase ‘found object’ comes from the the French ‘objet trouvé’ meaning non-artfunctioning objects that are placed in an artistic context. In its early usage objet trouvé was understood to be a anobject used in the assemblage of an art piece, focusing more on the materialand aesthetic qualities of the object rather than its contextual connotations.
Marcel Duchamp evolved this practice but using readymades, composed of objectsthat were their own autonomous works of art, famously his 1917 Fountain comprised of a porcelain urinal.The appropriation of a found object not only has wider repurcussions in thefield of art, as it poses the question: is art about the artist’s mind or theartist’s skill? But it also confuses the line between the intention of theartist and the contextual knowledge the of the viewer. Ourrelationships with objects is simultaneously very functional and pragmatic, yetsentimental and mundane. This dynamic can both be seen as a useful way to communicateideas about familiarity, or a hinderence when the artist’s intention is toremove a found object from its everyday context.
In his main work ‘Sein und Zeit (Being and Time)’, MartinHeidegger attempted to further his goal of dismantling traditionalphilosophical theories and perspectives. He was concerned with ‘Seinsfrage’, or ‘the question of being.’He postulated seinsfrage as: “ifbeing is predicated in manifold meanings, then what is its fundamental meaning?What does being mean? If, in other words, there are many kinds of being, ormany senses in which existence may be predicated of a thing, what is themost-fundamental kind of being, the kind that may be predicated of all things?”Wolin and Naess (2017). In order toaddress that question properly, Heidegger investigated the human individual,which he called ‘Dasein.’ The inherentcharacteristic of Dasein is acondition of already ‘being in the world’ – of already being caught up in andinvolved with individuals and things.
The notion of Dasein Theattempt to place and understand everyday life in an artistic sense is ofteneasily articulated through found objects; these traces of mundanity visuallyexplain our everyday routine and existence through object functionality.However, a dichotomy occurs when the artist’s aesthetic or mental intention fora piece is somehow interfered with by the common association the viewer has toan object. In his book ‘Phenomenology of Perception’, Maurice Merleau-Pontyproposes that, from a phenomonoligical standpoint “the theory of sensation,which composes all knowledge out of determinate qualities, constructs objects forus that are cleansed of all equivocation, that are pure, absolute, and that arethe ideal of knowledge rather than its actual themes” Phenomenology of Perception (2012, p. 34).