Whose art is it anyway?

14 October 2010

The little cubicles of Things are still quite sparsely populated but there is a flurry of activity either side of the drop-off counter. When I walked in, during my lunch-break from the Slade, a number of people were collecting forms to accompany their things, and others were lining up to hand their objects over to Keith at the drop-off desk. Others still were lingering to peek at the objects through their cellophane wrappings or in the Sunday boxes.

Behind the huge calendar, which reminds me of advent calendars from my childhood, several people are at work, photographing the objects, processing the forms and updating the online database. The whole process is highly systematised: the photography is carried out with forensic precision, the triplicate forms feel very bureaucratic – yet the stories that accompany the objects are as varied as the handwriting on the forms and Keith clearly delights in his personal appreciation of each objects.

Each person approaches him with an object that they have set out from all others in a process which, in some ways, is very akin to the process of making art. But there is a clear sense that as Keith receives the object, he makes it part of his own art, at least temporarily. This happens both through a short discussion with the members of the public about what the object means and where it is from, during which Keith is happy to give his own personal interpretation/reaction to the object. And also through the allocation of a date: sometimes keith does this randomly, other times by association with the object. ‘What day of the week is this?’ he wonders of a large glittery plastic box shaped like an apple. It’s a thursday object, it turns out.
apple box

Both these procedures are indicative of Keith’s subjective and personal delimitation of the object and it is through these acts as much as from the archiving that follows that  the apple becomes part of this artwork, part of Keith’s collection. While I stand and wait to speak to Keith, a man returns to the table to make sure Keith has understood how his orthopaedic foot braces work. Through the object a connection has formed, the possibility of complicity. But the man also seems to realise that he has surrendered something to Keith. It feels slightly awkward that he might still want to hold on to it, wants to continue his story. I wonder if anyone will find a week of separation too long to bear?