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By Olle Lundin

Man and Communications student Olle Lundin is interning at the Van Abbemuseum on a queer storyline of their art collection. The benefit is to create a tool to critically address work and to bring up perspectives of gender, identity, minorities as well as political ideas to be discussed by the audience and the museum itself. We asked him to reflect on the ‘Thing Nothing’ exhibition from a queer perspective. 

At the entrance of the ‘Thing Nothing’ exhibition there is a big room filled with a collection of personal items that the general public has lent the museum.  The collection, called ‘My Thing’, is designed to nourish discussion about value and how individuals have a view on value that most likely differs to that of a museum.

Clothes, plastic cups, a bicycle pump, a trumpet, jewellery – a wide range of objects that all carry individual stories based on memories and usages. Texts corresponding to each object line the walls.

Even though each item comes from a different individual, I see this collection as a bigger whole; a defragmented identity is manifested here. All of these things somehow come from the same body or conscious. The space is portraying a collective past, but also - by placing the objects in relation to one another - suggesting new ways of looking at the self.  The benefit here is to offer a visitor a way to deconstruct and reconstruct the personal elements that constitute the ‘I’.

Each object in ‘My Thing’ has a history and a clear function, something that is absent in the work of designer Marlies Kolodziey. In her installation we are confronted with a frame, a stick-like thing and a bent glass object.

From a phenomenological point of view these objects become queer. Phenomenology is the idea that we orientate ourselves in the world based on the objects that surround us. Objects have expectations of us and we have culturally learned to read those expectations and use them for shaping our own identity.

If an object is not within the norm we might be puzzled, distracted or even fail to acknowledge its existence. Standing in front of Kolodziey’s work, we are looking at things that ask fundamentally different questions of the user. In order to find value in these objects and, and hence move towards using them, we need a creative or playful approach.

From this perspective, Kolodziey’s work is the most interesting contribution to ‘Thing Nothing’ when observed from a queer perspective. It affords a type of freedom and agency to the user that is rarely seen in the rest of the design world as we know it.

The Anonymous room takes us on a critical journey through markets and politics and shows us a ship storing data outside of national jurisdictions.  In ‘Tricking Biometrics’ Alix Gallet has developed tools that alter a face in order to trick facial recognition software. This project also visualizes how our appearance is performative and leaves behind a trace. Heather Dewey-Hagborg has created a way to erase a biological trace by replacing it with the data of someone else. Both of these projects are a way of hacking the imperialistic way that we are being analyzed and commodified as users. They add to the new social rights movement concerned with expanding our online and offline civil liberties.

Also in the Anonymous room we find the work of Imme van der Haak, an intriguing transformational dream. Imme is challenging the perception of what a normal body is by adding a silk print of another body onto wearers. The gender binary is still present in the work since one is confronted with a female-like and a male-like body although an interesting shift happens when one sees the garments being worn, and one is no longer able to judge anything. The translucent fabric gives space for the body underneath to be just that. A body.

At the end of ‘Thing Nothig’ there is a projection of a flag waving us goodbye in a windy mountain landscape. The flag is transparent, and barely visible, leaving us with the idea that nationality can be fluid, but so too can identity, gender, and all other kinds of categorizations.

This sort of fluidity should work to challenge us all to think critically and creatively about who we can be and how to achieve that. 

Published: 23-Oct-2015 13:21
  • Thing Nothing – a Queer Perspective

    Thing Nothing at Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven

  • Thing Nothing – a Queer Perspective

    Mijn Ding 2015

  • Thing Nothing – a Queer Perspective

    Marlies Kolodziey - Hidden Values 2015

  • Thing Nothing – a Queer Perspective

    Alix Gallet - Tricking Biometrics 2014

  • Thing Nothing – a Queer Perspective

    Imme van der Haak - Beyond the Body 2012