“She found a little bottle…and tied round the neck of the bottle was a paper label with the words ‘DRINK ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters."
- Lewis Carroll, 'Alice's adventures in Wonderland'
|Ah, welcome to sunny Oxford, Wednesday 21st August 2013.|
If Baudrillard in, his 'System of Objects' is correct in saying, "...there are two functions of every object, to be put to use or to be possessed" then this shop would surely appreciate both. 'Objects of Use' on Market Street in Oxford sells, you guessed it, things of use and things (like any self-respecting shop that wants to earn a living should) to be possessed if you're willing to cough up the cash that is. And if you're not familiar with this blog, its not my habit to go around applying theory to shops, it just so happens that this shop had something in common with my interest of everyday objects (drawing them mostly -check out the artwork sections of this blog).
After being to visit Pitt Rivers, Oxford earlier that morning and admiring (as I usually do) the collections of tools, netsukes, keys, pigments and such, I realised that what is particularly appealing about Pitt Rivers is the way in which the objects are displayed and the way in which they are labelled with their original handwritten tags (ah see, maybe you were wondering why the Carroll reference at the beginning...and he studied at Oxford too, which is convenient for this post). Later, coming across 'Objects of Use' was a bit like walking in the shop version of Pitt Rivers where things were for sale but presented as though they were on display. The shop was more empty in terms of stock than I was used to, except it was empty in a less-is-more way, where each comb, trowel, pot, pan and pair of scissors was given its own space to hang or lie. The result is an impression that each object is of greater importance and more 'one-of-a-kind'. And why shouldn't it? If we all (as users/makers of objects) took more notice of the things we use and in turn more care in looking after them then maybe that could help us all become a little bit more sustainable...maybe.
On other thoughts, I have often pondered on the difference between an object and an artefact. Is an artefact really just an object with provenance/museum context? Or in general does it really matter what we categorise or label something to be? Is a hammer still the same whether we call it a tool, a thing, an object or an artefact? I don't expect to answer these now, but it is something of an on-going interest.
So anyway, back to this business of labels, everything in this place has its own label complete with story of where it was made and what its made of. Yes, you too could own a wild boar hair men's hair brush made in Germany! Funnily enough, I didn't buy anything, realising I had probably enough objects of use at home that I could attribute my own provenance and history to. Of course I am a bit cynical here and can kind-of see the shopkeeper psychology at work, trying to get customers to buy premium products that are presented uniquely and given an almost superfluous back-story so that it can be justified at being priced at a higher cost, but none-the-less I think it works and having worked in retail agree that with the increase of online shopping the pressure for high street shops to offer, 'something more', 'added value' or an experience is the new norm. There's actually a lot of creativity that goes into it and I cannot help think of the Andy Warhol quote, "When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums" I cannot see why this shop couldn't be art? Maybe a lot of shops are?
Check it out! - http://www.objectsofuse.com/