[artinfo] Object Inutile - CALL FOR PARTICIPATION

hock.beata at upcmail.hu hock.beata at upcmail.hu
Fri Feb 13 14:36:22 CET 2009

---- isa massu <isa at aux2mondes.org> írta:
> Museums narrate the history of man’s evolution through the display of  
> tools (silex, knife, jar, etc.). In contrast, we are looking for  
> useless tools. This call will result in a vitrine of objects titled  
> Object Inutile to be displayed at the Musée de Préhistoire in France  
> (late Spring 2009) and the Thompson Gallery at San José State  
> University, U.S.A. (Fall 2009). Along with the objects will be an  
> audio-guide that describes and explains each object in its owners’  
> words.
> This project is one display within a larger exhibition titled Early  
> Man On a Modern Road by Dore Bowen and Isabelle Massu. The exhibition  
> is coordinated with the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s publication of  
> the Origin of Species. You can consult our website for more  
> information on the full exhibition at http://www.aux2mondes.org/earlyman
> Email us a picture of your useless tool and a description based upon  
> these questions. Send to isa at aux2mondes.org. We will contact you if  
> your object is selected.
> 1) What is your useless tool called?
> 2) When was it made?
> 3) What is it supposed to do?
> 4) Why do you think it is useless?
> 5) If you like, add a personal story about the object.
> The Concept of Useless Tools
> 1) We are not necessarily looking for tools that don’t work or that  
> time has passed by; we are looking for tools that you find to be  
> useless. Tools suggest that a certain activity has value. When you  
> define a tool as useless you are defining its activity as useless. (A  
> clock, for instance, is for coordinating activities with other human  
> beings. To find a clock unuseful is to find timeliness, precision, and  
> sociability unuseful.) [For a theoretical discussion concerning the  
> phenomenology of useless tools in Fluxus art see the essay “The  
> Function of Dysfunction”
> http://switch.sjsu.edu/mambo/switch23/ 
> the_function_of_disfunction_3.html]
> 2) In addition to value, useless tools are related to consumerism.  
> Over the past half-century machines have been produced to fulfill all  
> sorts of unnecessary functions, or to fulfill necessary functions but  
> without precision. The egg topper scissors is a good example (see  
> image above). This tool was produced to facilitate the breaking of the  
> top of an egg. Most people break the top of an egg with a knife and  
> still do. Why the production of such useless tools? Since most  
> consumers have all the tools necessary to live, capitalism produces  
> weird and sometimes wonderful tools that are, essentially, useless.
> 3) And finally, tools (and their related values) are associated with  
> class. Presumably, the working class man knows about cars, the middle  
> class woman about specialty cookware, and the upper class businessman  
> about fine watches. In France a signature middle class tool is the  
> pince a sucre, a device to pick up sugar cubes without using the  
> hands. It is essentially unnecessary as a tool (it’s easier to pick up  
> sugar cubes with the hands) but it marks a certain disdain for manual  
> labor and the body, and thus is a symbol of middle class cleanliness  
> and propriety. To find this tool useless means that you find its class  
> values useless. Such a choice acts as commentary and critique on class.
> 4) How does the idea of useless tools relate to the larger theme of  
> the exhibition—Darwin’s theory of evolution? Related to the idea of  
> unuseful tools is the notion of evolutionary maladaptation. When a  
> behavior is no longer adaptive it is called “maladaptive.”  Wikipedia  
> notes that maladaptation can “signify an adaptation that, whilst  
> reasonable at the time, has become less and less suitable and more of  
> a problem or hindrance in its own right.” Useless tools can help us to  
> understand maladaptation as they testify to traits or behaviors that  
> we no longer considered valuable. In 1859 Darwin wrote in the Origin  
> of Species, “We see beautiful adaptations everywhere and in every part  
> of the organic world.” In its failure to perform as expected, the  
> useless tool makes awkward maladaptations visible as well.
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