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Brief: (Extra)Ordinary

published on 4 November 2015

Curator Ben Whyman asked students at Liverpool John Moores University to explore how objects sit in space.

Curator Ben Whyman asked students at Liverpool John Moores University to explore how objects sit in space.

(Extra)Ordinary: Objects and Space

Philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre believed that the banal and everyday was worth examining for references and ideas about peoples’ lives as much as, for example, language and politics; if not more so. He went on to propose that the concept of everydayness could also reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary (Lefebvre, 1987: 9).

But he also suggested the problem with the everyday: 'the everyday is the most universal and the most unique condition, the most social and the most individuated, the most obvious and the most hidden' (1987: 9).

It is the notion of taking for granted the everyday – the objects that surround us, the everyday experiences, our friends and family – that is worth considering when exploring ideas around the use of space, in museum exhibitions, retail stores and in our day-to-day lives.

Sociologist David Inglis highlights how even seemingly banal, everyday objects, such as the chair you’re sitting on, becomes meaningful because we imbue it with significance. As Inglis highlights, the importance of thinking about the everyday is encouraged ‘because everyday life contains within it more significance than we might think’ (Inglis, 2005: 3).

This brief is about exploring how objects sit in space.

Visit two exhibitions (on any subject or theme – it can be historical, fashion, sociological, fine art, etc.) and two fashion retail stores, then reflect on how space is used to 'frame' the objects on display. What do you see? How is the space laid out? Is it logical, ordered, systematic – or is it random, chaotic, disorganised? How are the objects contextualised (in written wall panels, films, tour guides?)? How do you feel in the space?

Think how you move through a space, the impact it has on you, and the impact it has on your 'reading' of objects.

Make notes in written and visual form (drawing/illustration, visual, mind maps) about your experiences and the questions above. Think through what you have experienced, how objects are placed and how that space is organised. How might it influence your understanding of the objects on display?

Apply your thinking to a space, a locus, a place that holds memory for you: it could be your bedroom; a bookshelf in your local library; a corridor; a corner of your local park; a store; a football field… anywhere that you feel is significant to you in some way. Remember: the everyday can reveal the most about you, the society you live in and your experiences of the world.

Ann Demeulemeester shop window (from interior), Antwerp, Belgium, 2011
Kris Verdonck, Exhibition #1, Z33 – House for Contemporary Art, Hassalt, Belgium, 2011
Madame Gres exhibition, Musee Bourdelle, Paris, 2011
Untitled (One Hundred Spaces), 1995. Resin (100 units). Dimensions variable. © Vanity Fair (Italy)
Bauhaus exhibition, Barbican Gallery, 2012. Marcel Breuer with Martha Erps, Katt Both and Ruth Hollos-Consemuller



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