Possibilization and Desuetude: the Politics of the Reversed Canvas as Thing-Object

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Abstract

Thing theorists generally distinguish objects from things in terms of usefulness and desuetude (Benjamin, Brown, Lamb, Morton). If an object has lost its purpose or fallen out of economic circulation it comes alive as a thing that registers the obsolete desires of its former owners and users. Though thing theory illuminates the history of an object culture, it disregards the possibility that an object that has become a thing by losing its function can become an object-thing by being repurposed, if only as an object of contemplation. The pictorial motif of the reversed canvas shows paintings withdrawn from their usual function of display, yet also returns them to an “it-narrative” of economic circulation in settings that include dealers shops, auctions or studios. When painting threatened to become obsolete as an art form with the advent of new media in the 1960s the reversed painting took on a wider role of political potentiality in contemporary installation art and photography that this essay explores through theorists ranging from Schiller to Agamben.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalTransformations
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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