We Shall Now Discuss Love

The title of Lucy Powell's immersive video installation mirrors the opening words of a chapter in Vladimir Nabokov's novella" Transparent Things", in which the protagonist fails to find the right words and actions to express love in a meaningful way to his wife. But in Powell's installation it is a love of objects which permeates and the impossibility of grasping or knowing them.

The large-scale projection throws us into intimate proximity with a diverse set of objects from the Humboldt University teaching collections; so close that we may not be able to determine what they are or from which collection they emanate. Being immersed in the objects in this way reveals beguiling details and evident imperfections and allows us to savour them, but the medium of video keeps them at a distance (we cannot truly know them).

This resonates with the object-oriented philosophy of Graham Harman. Harman notes that objects are always individuals but knowledge always deals in universals. Powell's presentation of the scientific objects in themselves rather than as models for understanding or communicating universal principles, deflects customary collection categories and displaces the objects from their usual habitat and context. There are no taxonomies or static chronologies here, no hierarchy of value and no attempt to perform a narrative.

Outside these conventional knowledge systems we no longer see the objects as instructive objects in a teaching collection, instead they exist in what Harman refers to as an 'autonomous zone in which objects are simply themselves.'

The philosophical outlook and aesthetic dimension that steers Powell's approach to the collection unlocks any established categories ensconced in the scientific disciplines and presents us with the opportunity to immerse ourselves contemplatively in the rawness of the objects as they are. Powell describes this as radical intimacy, immersing the viewer in the object without the possibility of objective distance.

Dr. Sara Barnes, 2015

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