Relative Value of Things: an investigation of the joys, follies and contradictions of collecting, desire and valorization, is a document of discarded items. Over the last several years I have kept a written list of everything I get rid of, this does not include garbage – only functional items I thought at one point I needed. This purging and chronicling began as an attempt to own less, use things more wisely and take up less space on the planet. We love and loath to be described by what we own, it is an embarrassment and a badge. But perhaps far more revealing than what we own may be what we discard. In that ever accumulating pile of stuff destined for the garbage or Goodwill we find representation of desire-dumb objects that speak to all the things and ideas we at one time thought were essential. At first blush this project may appear hopelessly self-absorbed, but I don’t believe it is because it reflects a kind of personal archaeology anyone could do. Through creating an archive of the disused, this seemingly absurdist project touches on issues of identify, desire and the overwhelming need we have to organize ourselves in a universe that feels quite random and chaotic. The Relative Value of Things includes a fair amount of text. The written list numbers over 800 objects and the photographic aspect is a simple sampling of these “dumb discarded things”. The text is small and handwritten, yet large enough to read. The photographs are straight ahead images of objects. The objects range from beautiful and mysterious to humble, hopeful and sad. They are the cast off objects of everyday life given weight by knowing they once reflected something of intrinsic value.
Images 10×24” inkjet print with handwritten text using ink and graphite, 2006-2009
About the Book:
The front covers: Hair & Lint
As the central part of the book is a consideration of discarded items that once had value, I wanted to counter the pondering of once valued object with material that lacks any recognizable worth. To do this, I selected hair and lint because although they are considered garbage they retain a quiet resonance, holding a balance between being compelling and slightly repulsive while preserving clues as to who we are.
We are always trying to hold onto experiences: we keep journals, take photographs, and create scrapbooks. Our physical being also collects information about experience by what we pick up on our clothes as we go through the day. As we wash and dry our clothes that physical evidence disappears but is preserved in the lint left behind.
While lint documents our physical experience hair becomes a vehicle for emotional experience. Hair is a curious bodily extension that expresses beauty and anxiety-we obsess about where we have it and where we do not. There are many myths and fairytales that make use of the power of hair. We love how luxurious it can feel but are repulsed to pull a stand from our mouth after inserting a forkful of food. Think of the suspicion that is raised if you find a long red hair in your bed when both you and your partner are brunettes. Hair has the ability to beguile us, vex us and give away our secrets.
The 120 covers that make up the edition of The Relative Value of Things are made from either hair or lint donated from a multitude of friends, acquaintances and strangers who responded to a verbal, written or posted request to be part of the project. I am gratified by the willingness of people to stop for a moment, listen and say yes to being part of a project that may at first sound quite absurd. This part of the project could not have been completed without the generous donations of the contributors listed in the book.