Ether 16 System of Objects

As the logic of our daily lives becomes more and more removed from the direct consequences of our actions, objects are marketed and sold for their symbolic values alone. A teapot by Phillipe Starck costs more because of its styling, even though it doesn’t really work. But even the styling doesn’t really matter, only Starck’s name as a marker of value. Physical objects carry value only at moments of exchange: the moment they become so desirable that you want to purchase them and the moment that you can no longer tolerate their presence and want to get rid of them.

The increasing role of telecommunications and computers in everyday life does not do away with objects. Far from it, in immaterial culture physical objects proliferate endlessly.

We still feel the need to own objects, even if the gratitude of ownership is fleeting. The on-again and off-again emotions we have about our objects confuse us, leaving us bewildered and lost. But physical objects will always ultimately repel us because they cannot satisfy our desire for self-negation, our desire to lose ourselves in their world. So it is that our love for objects is routinely replaced by a deep hate. We sell our possessions relentlessly on ebay but still they accumulate, contributing nothing to our lives. Every day more debt, more things, less joy.

We will never find a release from the need to own. Even if we can’t sustain the gratitude of ownership, we purchase goods to validate our identity and diversity as individuals existing outside of this media web. But more than that, in submitting ourselves as willing slaves to our world of useless objects, we hope to become as disposable to them as they are to us today. If we cannot join their world, we dream of a new equality: being as ethereal and meaningless to them as they are to us. We hope that we will be allowed to leave this material world and dissipate in ether. And yet, as conflicted beings, we also hope that one day our objects will invest in us the same animistic beliefs with which we invest them. This is not our nightmare, it is the achievement of an Utopian dream, presence without purpose or responsibility: a slacker response of ambivalence and helplessness. The dream of immaterial culture is revenge on the world of objects.