Developed alongside the exhibition of the same name currently at the Camberwell Space, this symposium was equally mind-stretching. The curator Florian Roithmayr gathered the presenters with the same breath of vision as he had gathered the artists. Each an expert in their field, each working on what feels like tenderly outer limits of our understanding of our relationships with the object.
First up was Roger Lemon the neurologist from UCL who talked about Mirror Neurons. These are areas of the brain which have been discovered which work when we pick things up, and astoundingly, when we just watch other people picking things up. He proposed that this suggests our ability to empathise with the objects relevance to us as defined by others. This makes me think the object is as much in our mind as in our space. Does the idea of it count?
This was expanded upon by the philosopher Gregorie Currie from Nottingham Uni. He offered that this psychological reaction to objects is dictated by form, with some forms triggering responses we define as beauty. He started to loose me at this point, as he crossed over from philosophy into critique. His reluctance to grant contemporary art such as recent Tate Turbine Hall installations the status of art alienated much of his audience. Roger Lemon came close with his reports of neural experiments which are performed on monkeys, but I felt that Currie succeeded in negating his argument by denying the emotional empathy we feel on other levels beyond form, such as pain, movement or joy.
The last speaker I saw was the poet and lecturer Sharon Morris, who presented her poetry and accompanying film. With these two mediums I felt she conjured the objects into the room. Her own emotional empathy and skills at communicating it enabled us to share her experiences. If an object is crafted thing, then surely this can apply to language too? I credited her with this belief, and felt empathy with the Gospel Oak in her work.
Neuroscience and philosophy are new areas for me. They were hard to grasp at times, but the excitement I feel that there are so many other folk in the world considering similar things to me is great. What is all this stuff we surround ourselves with? What is the power relationship we share? Are we not stuff too?