Ever find yourself toting around boxes of unknown childhood memories? Hey, sentimentality can be burdensome. Maybe that's why those New Year's Eve celebrations where people just chuck things into the garbage are so popular. The names of ex-boyfriends and other heartstring-ripping past-year traumas heaved into a rubbish bin, leaving you with no trace of the thing lost.
But, as artists Megan Cotts, Ali Prosch and Brica Wilcox are keen to note, “Destruction is impossible.”
Why is that? Since we're all experts in thermodynamics … oh, wait, we're not. OK, so here's the deal: Energy can't be created or destroyed, only transformed from one thing into another. Basically, it's like when you go all crazy and bust up a mirror, you're not left with nothing, you're left with a huge pile of shards of glass.
And when you're dealing with emotionally burdensome objects, something left over can be a big problem.
D3, the object-divestment service run by Cotts, Prosch and Wilcox, offers to get rid of those troublesome objects for you (objects only — sorry, no boyfriends), while maintaining some semblance of your attachment to them.
Here's how it works:
1. Send in an emotionally burdensome object
You also submit an info sheet, which helps D3 determine whether it will accept the object, and not all of them are accepted. (“This is not a disposal service,” D3 told me.)
2. A surrogate is produced for the object
The surrogate can be a sculpture, painting, photograph or other representation of the object, determined by D3 based on the info submitted. This surrogate was cast from the inside of the pair of shoes.
3. The object is destroyed, to the best thermodynamic possibility
The method of destruction is also based on the object's history. Remains from the object are sometimes repurposed into the the creation of the surrogate. In this case, the emotionally burdensome object was shot from a potato gun.
4. Finally, the object is archived.
The surrogate and the documentation sheet remain in D3's archive, which is available for public research and exhibition.
In a recent conversation with Ali and Brica (Megan was tied up with other commitments — the life of an underpaid artist…), the two relate the importance of D3's process, giving each participant “the opportunity to consider one's connection to the object.” (Since they emphasize the collective aspect of the project and reiterate each other's points, we're attributing quotes to both of them).
Though all are somewhat traditional art practitioners — working in video, performance and photography, and dabbling with the occasional sculpture — the ladies admit, “There's the flaw of being attached to objects.”
The trio met at CalArts and while working in these media they found that they shared an interest in what they call the “image-object narrative.” They formed D3 to study humans' attachment to objects.
When D3 analyzes each object, it examines the relationship between its “use value” (the value you give to, say, an iPod because you can play songs on it) and “symbolic value” (the value you give to an iPod because your boyfriend gave it to you). Often even if the use value has been exhausted, “the symbolic value is in excess,” they point out, making the object difficult to part with.
In creating surrogates — casts, photographs or other objects that have no hope of ever having a real use value — D3 believes they are zeroing out the equation by replacing the symbolic value with an abstracted form, a new vessel free of attachment or emotional burden. Without the recognition of the burdensome object, you can give in to allowing the object to be destroyed. Or, at least, transformed to the extent that it is no longer recognizable.
Because D3 oversees the archive, it takes on the responsibility of caring for the concentrated symbolic value of the object, freeing you from this burden of having to worry about it. The objects in the archive can be exhibited, by D3 or by others, but that's only an ancillary part of the project.
So, if by chance you happen to find some semblance of that '90s mixtape your ex-boyfriend made you on display someday, you can encounter it without the cringes it once brought upon you, knowing you're responsible for having helped make it into art instead.
In a nod to Pacific Standard Time, D3 will be staging a special 1980 edition of its project Feb. 11-12 at Machine Project. With the massive spectacle of Los Angeles art pulling up short at 1980, the trio intends to gather a mass of objects and ideas from the year as a monument to the moment.
More information on how to rid yourself of your burdensome objects is available at d-three.org. D3 will be hosting 1980 Special Edition at Machine Project on Feb. 11-12. Further details at d-three.org.