‘How we experience material objects through our senses’ was the tag line of a two day workshop that I attended recently. The Sensuous Object, as it was called, turned out to be two days full of thought-provoking presentations (all centred around actual objects) with interesting people. So many issues were covered that it would be too much for just one blog post, so I may go into detail in future posts; suffice it to say that we discussed objects and the use of collections through focusing on their tactile nature, through sound, taste and smell, as well as movement. In the process we were treated not only to interesting visuals, like one presenter talking about hysteria while wearing a leather belt with which diagnosed hysterics were restrained to be kept safe in the nineteenth century, but we were also able to handle some of the objects that took centre stage.
One of the reasons that I really wanted to attend was that I was interested to see what is thought about object learning outside of my own field (of art and design), and I was not disappointed, coming home with a whole list of thoughts to follow up (once I have the time). I was particularly intrigued by the term ‘artifactualists’, the view of gloves as keeping an object of memory intact by not adding more memories, ‘imaginative imagination’, an ingenious way of visualising quantitative data, that sometimes we are talking about intuition but it may just be listening to sound without being aware of it (the sound being overlooked as it were), the question of how we listen and are we thinking about sound through metaphors, Gernot Boehme’s notion of athmosphere and the materiality of photography as well as drawing.
A big component was probably the Medical Museion in Copenhagen, which, as host, allowed the presenters access to its collection and also provided an athmospheric (and slightly unusual, for example they have a recreated Victorian pharmacy tucked away in one room) setting for the two days.