Tag Archives: fetishism

Inspiration & Ideas – Object & Fetish Installation

Just a view on how I installed some objects, self-made, readymade, collage pieces, writing, thinking, playing, – the object-box as reflection-wall – a board for further inspiration.

A board of not-knowing how to work from these, maybe an archive? A collection of fragments? Artefacts?

Stefan513593 - SP - Part 2 - inspiration objects and fetish - installation


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Peer feedback : Objects and Fetishism

During the life forum hangout 09 Sep 2018 (https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/forum-live-hangout-sun-sept-9th-6pm-sign-up-here/8024/31) I asked my peers for some feedback as it would allow me to be clearer on the ‘essence’ of what I was doing and making :

  • the works in itself
  • the works together as an assembly
  • any associations related to seeing them
  • possible ideas how this could be moved forward

I worked now since couple of months with and on my object box, an assemblage of dysfunctional things that became part of my life already. I had to put a break in my coursework for reasons of relocation and re-settling.

In March I posted a video of me performing an unfolding of my object-box and got various feedbacks that more or less consciously or subconsciously impacted my approach.

  • the thread of the March hangout: here
  • my initial reflection after the hangout: here

My initial performative interaction  could this be a work in itself, or part of work?

I continued with coursework and preparation of my assignment work along a more painterly approach, with some moving images that resemble animation films, and an expansion into space trying to put myself and my objects into a new perspective. I had to let go some of the box-objects – to move them into my new works.

Reflection on feedback received:

  • As I asked for feedback on the assembly of four works, most comments came back on the animation piece, as something intriguing, a narrative, and entertaining. With a sense of innocent charm. The references made to this were:
    a) BBC Children Series with Tony Hart: The series started with 1964 ‘Vision On‘, initially targeting children with hearing impairment, followed 1977 by its replacement series ‘Take Hart‘. All are visual presentations of cut-out, simple painted marks, and other visual plays as entertainment.
    b) Bento Boxes. I am not sure that food is the direction to go, I was aware that the fork as part of my object box would bring this up immediately. A reason why I skipped this object in the third animation (#1)
    c) ‘Manipulating’ – control through hands. How could this be moved further that the viewer has a sense of their hands? A different visual entry?
  • My object collage work #4-What is Below and Beyond  was related to Chef’s Table, in overcoming the constraints of serving food on a plate, expanding to the table and serving food directly onto and from the table, the table as worktable for performative presentation. at: Chef’s Table Season 2 Episode 1 Grant Achatz.  This is an interesting notion, as more for practical reasons I placed the work onto a small table/chair, kind of referring back to the origin of work-table. This work was also associated with the notion of inside-outside the box, a reversal, what I find an interesting aspect for further development.
  • We discussed my reference to fetishes, and the unboxing as a repetitive cycle of interacting with objects was associated with:
    – obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and
    ASMR unboxing on youtube, (ASMR = Autonomous sensory meridian response, a mean to relax through experiencing tingling sensations on the skin
    –  cognitive bias: what am I holding onto? what could/should change?
  • Other associations: Pandora Box, Black Box, Relicts, Mystery.
  • For me an interesting aspect was that compared with my initial performative unboxing video, the mystery and secret language hidden was lost in my later works. Do I want to capture the mystery, magic moment when the viewer sees my work, or do I want to move another road, more mundane, or a frontal encounter with dysfunctional objects (with or without title) to make the seeing and looking experience the content?
  • Another comment made was related to the shift of color from #1 to #4. A conscious decision or a de-saturation of visual impact. What colors could be more successful for my subject?
  • It became clearer to me that the term ‘fetish’ is somehow challenging, perhaps even provocative. The comment related to obsession is well made, there was certainly an aspect during this time for me. I feel there is a something between a more observer position of the viewer and being part of an experience. So far I am afraid that the seeing online supports a more consuming attitude, versus a larger scale work with the viewer invited to engage physically with could possibly overcome this.


It was very helpful to get feedback from others and I do thank all for their valuable contributions.  Some aspects might need more time to digest and mature.

One thing that I am still not clear about for myself, is animation as painting, or painting as animation aka moving images. It allows certainly to communicate a process and development. Would it possibly better if the viewer is invited to engage with the process and work out some possibly scenarios?  What can I convey through moving images in painting that would be missing otherwise? A new insight? So far the animation worked by feedbacks received, though without a mystery. Too predictable? Too entertaining?

I will take further the idea of fetish, objects, obsession, inside-out, and agency of viewer into consideration. Possibly that the work need to be done at much larger scale, to bring in the ‘objecthood of the spectator’ (quoting Olafur Eliasson). One was would be to skip the box and move to object and relationships, between objects and between objects and spectator.

The question of color, bright versus muted, need more attention from my end, what serves what?

Resources mentioned:

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Objects and Fetishism – The Handle and the Box

The Handle of the Box - Mini Box Experience

During this part of the course I had the strange feeling that objects had their own life. Reflecting first on my drawing and painting tools that I took with me on travels – fitting into a nomad life. The tools suddenly changed into dysfunctional things laying around me in my close working environment. My real suitcase changed to a box, as movable and transportable. Even fitting into one suitcase. But now I took not only my real ‘worktable’, the drawings and painting tools, with me. I ‘had’ to take also the box with weird objects along with me. I had to, because I wanted to, to be inspired by the box and to work with and from the box.

What happened? The ‘object-box’ became so familiar to me, being nearly a companion hard to separate from. The longer break I took between making the box and the continuation with coursework actually enforced the sense of belonging. To use some of the objects into my paintings felt strange, to dis-assemble ‘my’ box as a whole, to separate parts from each other. At times I was not sure what the work would be: created paintings inspired by the box, or the box as an object of curiosity and desire. A dilemma.

Meanwhile, objects from the box moved into painted object-collages as new assemblages, with possibly a longer duration of ‘life’, till they get absorbed into new works, like the observational cut-outs – spares or debris.

StefanJSchaffeld - Part 2 - Materiality - Fragments

Spares and Debris

Did I, and still do I, experience fetishism, as Sue commented on my video of unfolding the box? I was hooked by the term, and read around it to make up my mind of what it is and how relevant it can be for next steps.

Fetishes, or also idolatry, are at times connoted with tribal and ‘primitive’ beliefs of objects or things charged with power and transcendental meaning. In that sense many cultural objects could be seen as fetishes, e.g. money. John R. Searle related those things in his book ‘The Construction of Social Reality’ (1996) as socially constructed facts, assigned with a power function by collective intention. Thus, how we perceive fetishes is cultural different, how we react to them seems similar.

Science was long time considered as fact based and objective, what changed somehow with the insights of quantum physics. An anecdote of Niels Bohr about why he had a horseshoe above the doorway and his comment apparently was, that even if we do not believe in transcendental power of things, they would still ‘work’.

‘Humans are not any longer between themselves’ – Bruno Latour

Nowadays, things seem to have more or less an independent ‘life’, at least they have independent power, e.g internet of things, drones (an focus e.g in Hito Steyerl’s work). We establish a relationship with them, we talk to them and we listen to them, e.g. Alexa or Siri. We consider things in an anthropomorphic way. Who can’t relate to this when e.g working on a computer and it doesn’t do what we want it to do?

And things do live further when we die. We charge things with memories, a phenomena that is reflected in e.g. how we relate to photographs of deceased people especially family members. Kind of overcoming death.

And is art per se not a fetish? Material charged with meaning and power?

The distinction between object and subject get blurred, an illusion. In that sense fetishism is an intrinsic part of modern as Hartmut Boehme argued (2012).

Things do have different aspects:

  • Function: a purpose or use, relating to Richard Serra’s list of transitive verbs ‘to xxx’, an aspect of operational, relating to Steinberg’s notion of shift in pictorial plane towards ‘operational process’. Reminds me also the project with  ‘End to End’ (Lean Management, with Enough Room for Space)
  • Meaning: social meaning and sense / things to increase self-esteem and status / as historical artefact
  • Aesthetic: related to object culture and how we embellish useful things (ref. design)

Things of consumerism could be blamed as the golden calf  (see Nicolas Poussin) or as a capitalist repression of the poor by the rich (Karl Marx). For me more a question of awareness of our relationship to things – as old as Stone Age (could my pebble act as a reference or reminder of that geological time lapse?). Things do act on us, as Boehme described the mechanism of fetish (translated from German by myself):

“Things have to take over the task to suggest us an independence from them that we don’t have, we loose it the very moment as things make us believe we gained freedom.’ – Hartmut Boehme 

Exploring things is like reflection on oneself. What is discovered inside falls back onto us.

Objects do act as a way of understanding the world. Our actions are embedded with the things we act with or on. Georg Simmel explored in the story ‘Der Henkel (The Handle)’ the double aspects of an object, a jar. Through the handle the world touches the object, and through the spout the object reaches out to the world. The object, the jar itself being rather independent through its more aesthetic form. And Roger-Pol Droit explored how mundane things do work, how they are and what they do with us, e.g a photocopier, a clip, a water-level.

My object-box and all dysfunctional things would be one way of experiencing myself, my self image mediated through objects. It that what fetish is about? To hold, means to be aware?

The image above (featured image) could also be seen as a box inside the next one – the endlessness of satisfying desire in our life.

The Box inside the Box - Mini Box Experience

The Box inside the Box – Mini Box Experience

The box as container, visible and invisible. Possible to act upon and throw it away? Gaining apparent freedom? Possible way of visualization to destruct the box and suspend over larger scale objects , kind of explosion but still present. Reminds of me Cornelia Parker’s ‘Blowing the Shed‘, a process of interaction and relationship just to make us more aware of what is there.


  • Böhme, H. (2012) Fetischismus und Kultur : eine andere Theorie der Moderne,Rowohlts Enzyklopädie,  3rd ed. ed. Edited by König, B. Reinbek, Hamburg: Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag.
    review in english at: https://am.ubiquitypress.com/articles/89/)
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