Material possessions have always been present in human life. The history of objects express many things about the people who used them. They spoke to their culture, power, knowledge, faith, divisions, and points of contact (Findlen, pg 5). Objects are witnesses of humanity. Though inanimate and wordless, an object “speaks volumes by inviting us to find its history” (Findlen, pg 6). Findlen takes the idea that objects speak volumes a step further, and claims that even people are things and construct their identities through their stuff (Findlen, pg 10). Because people are so intertwined with their desires and possessions, it is “through objects we can connect histories” (Findlen, pg 19).
It’s no doubt that objects reveal so much about people and history, and the destruction of even the smallest of objects and artwork, such as in ancient Rome, also means “the destruction of the very shape and being of art at large” (Russo, pg 22). The very simple things that are normal to us living in the 21st century, items such as a stapler and desk lamp, could be quite telling of our culture in one hundred years. These items are common in every office around America yet are likely obsolete in the homes and jobs of those around the globe, such as a rickshaw driver in India living in a straw community who has no use for such items. The items we use show our necessities and desires. If staplers become obsolete in one hundred years and all evidence of them is destroyed, a simple object that witnesses millions of people swarming in cubicles would be lost. And, in turn, a massive part of 21st century American culture would be gone too.
In summary, Findlen takes objects very seriously for their cultural purposes and revelation of identities from those past. When these artworks or objects are destroyed, as mentioned in Russo’s work, we lose a massive part of history that is irreplaceable. Next time you press down on a stapler for the thousandth time, think of all of the items you use everyday that define you and you couldn’t live without. It’ll be quite telling, I guarantee.
Michaela Stock, Hope College 2020.
Image: Merelize, preview16.jpg