Stories are a kind of thing, too. Stories and objects share something, a patina. I thought I had this clear, two years ago before I started, but I am no longer sure how this works. Perhaps a patina is a process of rubbing back so that the essential is revealed, the way that a striated stone tumbled in a river feels irreducible, the way that this netsuke of a fox has become little more than a memory of a nose and a tail. But it also seems additive, in the way that a piece of oak furniture gains over years and years of polishing, and the way the leaves of my medlar shine.
― Edmund de Waal, The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss
All the objects which he contemplated with as much curiosity and admiration as gratitude, for if, in absorbing his dreams, they had delivered him from an obsession, they themselves were, in turn, enriched by the absorption; they shewed him the palpable realisation of his fancies, and they interested his mind; they took shape and grew solid before his eyes, and at the same time they soothed his troubled heart.
Objects have connotations unrelated to their purpose. Art can stretch these personal and universal undercurrents into something that celebrates life.
Federico Uribe was born in 1964 in war-torn Colombia. The Columbian Conflict, as history books name it, began in the mid-sixties and continues today. His homeland has been ravaged by armed warfare for the entirety of his life. You might think that this would make a broody, angry artist, and he was such for a time, but he decided that, in order to live, he needed to celebrate the life he was given and reconcile with his past. The key to that was to look at the world around him with new eyes and to use his hands and creativity to remake the world around him with humor and beauty.
Uribe has also made fantastic animals from colorful shotgun shells, turning something ugly and violent into something beautiful and playful. It is by remembering how to play that Uribe triumphs over the darkness and regains his childhood. That childhood is imbued with a reconciliatory power that shows us we can change our world by changing our perspective and helping others to see our vision. As Uribe puts objects in new contexts, we can put ourselves in new relationship with each other and with nature. The way to capture this energy of transformation is not through political statements, but through authentic feeling.
In Good Faith, Federico Uribe
Mahatma Ghandi once said “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
Please visit Federico Uribe’s website to see more of his wonderful vision.
When I felt I was dying, these past few days, things were no longer anthropomorphic. The telephone, which looks like a sort of upturned black snake, was merely a telephone. Every thing was just a thing. The couch, which looked like a big square face drawn by Rubens, with buttons on the cover like wicked little eyes, was just a couch, rather shabby but nothing more. At such a time things don’t matter to you; you don’t bathe everything in your presence, like an amoeba. Things become innocent because you draw away from them; experience becomes virginal, as it was for the first man when he saw the valleys and the plains. You feel you are set in a tidy world: that is a door and it behaves like a door, that is white and behaves like white. What heaven: the symbolism of meanings loses all meaning. You see objects which are comforting because they are quite free. But suddenly you are flung into a new form of suffering because, when you come to miss the meaning of, say, a stool, reality suddenly becomes terrifying. Everything becomes monstrous, unattainable.
― Federico Fellini, Fellini On Fellini
Retombante Stool, Public Domain Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Caring too much for objects can destroy you. Only—if you care for a thing enough, it takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? And isn’t the whole point of things—beautiful things—that they connect you to some larger beauty? Those first images that crack your heart wide open and you spend the rest of your life chasing, or trying to recapture, in one way or another?
It seems to me that the objects don’t know their material, the gestures don’t know their feelings, and the words don’t know the mouth that speaks them. But to be certain of our own existence, we need the objects, the gestures, and the words. After all, the more words we are allowed to take, the freer we become. If our mouth is banned, then we attempt to assert ourselves through gestures, even objects. They are more difficult to interpret, and take time before they arouse suspicion.
If you’d rather live surrounded by pristine objects than by the traces of happy memories, stay focused on tangible things. Otherwise, stop fixating on stuff you can touch and start caring about stuff that touches you.
—Martha Beck, “Stop Worrying”
Objects were memory inert. Desk, the bed, et cetera. Objects would survive the one who died first and remind the other of how easily halved a life can become. Death, perhaps, was not the point so much as separation. Chairs, tables, dressers, envelopes. Everything was a common experience, binding them despite their indirections, the slanted apparatus of their agreeing. That they did agree was not in doubt.