Byung-Chul Han: How Objects Lost their Magic, Gesine Borcherdt, δημοσίευση στο ArtReview [11/8/2021]Marilena Pateraki
For the philosopher, our postfactual stimulus culture is one that edges out time-consuming values such as loyalty, ritual and commitment
The other day I accidentally dropped a silver art-deco teapot, which has been my constant companion for the past 20 years. The dent was huge, and so was the measure of my grief. I suffered sleepless nights until I found a silversmith who promised me she could fix it. Now I find myself waiting impatiently for its return, filled with dread that, when it arrives, it will no longer be the same. And yet the experience leaves me wondering: why have I unravelled in this way?
‘Things are points of stability in life,’ the South Korean-born, Swiss-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han writes in his new book, Undinge (Nonobjects), which is just out in German. (As is the way of things with philosophy books, English-language readers might need to wait some time for its appearance in translation). ‘Objects stabilise human life insofar as they give it a continuity,’ Han writes. Living matter and its history bestow on the object a presence, which activates its entire surroundings. Objects – especially well-designed, historically charged objects, and which are not necessarily artworks – can develop almost magical properties. Undinge is about the loss of this magic. ‘The digital order deobjectifies the world by rendering it information,’ he writes. ‘It’s not objects but information that rules the living world. We no longer inhabit heaven and earth, but the Cloud and Google Earth. The world is becoming progressively untouchable, foggy and ghostly.’
This type of critical stance towards the present, written in clear, zenlike sentences, is a feature of all Han’s books. From The Burnout Society (2010) to The Disappearance of Rituals (2019), he describes our current reality as one in which relations to the other – whether human or object – are being lost; as one in which the tap of finger on smart- phone has replaced real contact and real relationships. The fleeting quality of virtual information and communication, which obliterates, through amplification, any deeper meaning or stillness, displaces the object – whether it be the jukebox in the author’s apartment, or the telephone receivers of Walter Benjamin’s childhood, famously ‘heavy as a dumbbells’ – in whose physical presence resides a humane component, or even an aura, that makes the object mysterious and alive.
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