Many daily consumer objects, which save physical or mental energy, have become true “fetishes”.
Bags, watches, trains and trucks are seen as miracles which deserve to be elevated to decorative status, as in the work of Helen Marten and Caroline Achaintre. For Chris Burden, they even become companions worthy of their own moving story. By fetichising them, we allow ourselves to forget the energy required to produce them, the energy they use and the energy they save human bodies.
Two of the most venerated objects, the car and the computer, symbolise the shrinkage of time and space. Cars – whether parked, in traffic jams or by virtue of accumulation – interest artists for their flow, as in the work of León Ferrari, and the way they transform landscapes, as in the environment imaged by Gustav Metzger. Computer science also kindles desire: Paul Rand’s design for IBM turned electronic components into enchanting landscapes, and Ettore Sottsass and Konstantin Grcic took the office furniture designed to accommodate computers to new aesthetic heights.
After of a period of fascination, artists began to draw attention to the maintenance, obsolescence and finite nature of these fetishes. Fallen idols, they quickly become waste, as in the photographs of piles of unused, virtually unrecyclable computers by Valérie Belin and in the works of El Anatsui, who weaves scrap metal together to defy its status as useless junk. Jennifer Tee’s tulip petal collages remind us that plants, too, have fallen victim to this veneration. Since the 17th-century tulip mania and through to today, this emblem of the Netherlands has been and continues to be farmed intensively, crossing continents and oceans in refrigerated trucks to meet frenzied demand.
This chapter can be seen at the Frac Grand Large — Hauts-de-France.