i object

An online exhibition of MA RCA Sculpture students in online residence at the Freud Museum February 2021

Our relations with self, objects and screens have been thrown into sharp new relief over the last year. In art schools, which were already rich with speculation on the relation between object, subject and agency, a whole new set of conditions came into play as we were forced to undertake an entirely online communication. As a cohort of artists many of us have only ever met each other, and each other’s work, in domestic spaces via a screen.

The opportunity to consider the relations between home space and work space, between objects present and objects on screen, between objects and language in collaboration with the Freud Museum has been a delight. It comes whilst still embedded in our own domestic spaces which has had an intensity over the last 12 months like never before. The way that objects and spaces profoundly connect with us via screens is reflected in the psychic plasticity of Freud’s work on dreams, and this in combination with his avid collecting of material objects and antiquities (and their on-screen digitization) has been fertile territory for the 18 artists here. 

The expertise of the museum staff, their granular knowledge about Freud’s life and work, the objects he collected and the house that he lived and worked in along with his analyst daughter Anna Freud, have provided valuable insights, enriched discussion and been a crucial resource for the artists.

Psychoanalytic ‘objects’ are of course about relationships, objects are usually persons, parts of persons, or symbols of them. They may carry unconscious ideas and conflicting emotions.

In this project - a week’s residency and a week’s response time culminating in this online exhibition of the work by 18 postgraduate artists studying MA Sculpture, we consider objects in the widest interdisciplinary use of the term. In this moment - when structural inequalities between people have been revealed as ever more acute, when we long for touch and close contact when those are the very things made dangerous by disease transmission, when representation and language become so critical to provide and bridge these relations, the work here made as a response to our access to the museum is resonant and timely. Trauma, reconciliation, loss, potential, a new negotiation of intimacy and haptic relations emerge through these interventions with objects, the house, and its language.

Each artist has an active button here on the home screen of the virtual tour of 20 Maresfield Gardens. In addition Artist Roy Claire Potter has also contributed a text written from and with the tools and structure of their workshop delivered to students as part of the residency, using words generated by and with the museum. Artist and Writer Ameera Kawash (PhD Candidate RCA) also contributes a work in response by the seminar she delivered as part of the event.

Maria Walsh lends us our title from her own written speculation on art and objects, written before the pandemic was imagined but whose closing words seem more prescient than ever:

It seems to me that the hybrid monsters which populate the collective imaginary, and which congregate in a battle of screens and objects, need subjects to determine the conditions of their own objecthood rather than having this imposed on them as either a matter of fact or an infinity of associative relations without limits. The question to be asked is whether the gathering of ‘quasi-objects’ and ‘quasi-subjects’ might allow instead for a different kind of participation, one in which the life of things is shared rather than subdued or feared.

Maria Walsh
I Object, Art Monthly, October 2013

Our warm thanks to Carol Seigel, Director, Ivan Ward Deputy Director/Head of Learning, Bryony Davies, Curator and Stefan Marianski, Education Officer for their expertise, knowledge and generosity.

Melanie Jackson, Tutor