Robyn Walton

On the Useful Object

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“Once the commodity had freed objects of use from the slavery of being useful, the borderline that separated them from works of art... became extremely tenuous.”
— Giorgio Agamben
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picking up sticks
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maintenance work

Disconcertingly familiar, this work oscillates between art that would like to become utilitarian, and utilitarian objects that dream of becoming works of art. Seemingly functional devices are made purposeless, the appearance of household objects is confounded, and their associations expanded beyond the zone of household activity. 

Through this obscuration of purpose, frustrated tools discover new forms of agency. Rather than focusing upon pure function, re-engaging with the form and materiality of domestic utensils allows them to speak of other concerns. Valuing the devalued objects raises the status of their associated tasks: domestic activities 'that are connoted as female and thus excluded from the paradigm of work' (Sigler Work 20).

The treasuring of the everyday becomes a political act. The new objects stage an occupation of the space, resembling a form of passive resistance or strike action. Both activated and incapacitated, they offer up a certain ambiguous utility, whilst simultaneously holding themselves apart. Perhaps tired of being taken for granted, they are engaged in an act of non-cooperative cooperation.

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line dance
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