The Significant Object

This is an interesting project: to test the basis of emotional significance, and consider how exactly value is attached to an object, Rob Walker and team decided to pair mundane objects with creative writers. They asked each writer to concoct a back story for the object, and then see whether that object could now enjoy an intrinsic, monetary value which it had previously lacked. The objective way to test this increase in value, they decided, was to then sell the item on eBay, complete with new shiny narrative.

There are certain similarities between The Significant Object and the project I featured here several months ago, whereby people attach memories and meanings to public objects using an online ‘tag’, which others can then access on their mobile phone while they themselves use the same object or space. Walker’s project is clearly more empirical, but they stem from the same root idea: both teams are fascinated by the associations and values that people place on objects, and whether another’s life can be enhanced by that previously entirely subjective link. If it can be, the value becomes monetary as well as emotional. And in a capitalist world, that’s a key point.

The ‘attach a writer to an object and enhance it’ path is also pre-paved: during London Design Festival 2009, Parallel Projects curated a thoughtful exhibition called Three Yet One, which saw a series of  objects displayed and considered in three different formats: the object itself, as created solely by the designer; a description of the object, as written by the brilliant Tim Parsons; and a visual of the object (as demonstrated above), carefully styled and then shot by Emma Wieslander. Each interpretation of the object left you with an entirely different impression.

The Significant Object

One thought on “The Significant Object

  1. […] A personal history of touch December 27, 2010 by sarahhousley Madeleine Bunting has written a thoughtful article in today’s Guardian about the personal meaning of objects. She references Radio 4′s recent series A History of the World in 100 Objects and the writing of pop anthropologist Daniel Miller, author of The Comfort of Things. Also referred to is The Hare with Amber Eyes, a book by Edmund de Waal which I was lucky enough to receive as a gift this Christmas. All of these outlets consider the object as a romantic ideal, much like The Significant Object – covered on this blog here. […]

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