On categories

When I lived in Paris, I had a friend who worked in auction houses. He taught me this: “There’s a collector for everything. My art is to place an object in the category most appealing to collectors.” Is this chest of drawers an heirloom from a Belgian celebrity baron, or a rare piece of Art Nouveau furniture? Is this a letter about the first World War, or a rare autograph from a famous pacifist?

We carry categories in our heads, by which we make decisions. Breakfast food, lunch food, snack food. Person I could work with, person I could sleep with. There’s a collector in all of us. Some are simply more overt about it, or their collections are more immediately visible. What is yours? Dates, shirts, food photographs, or vintage teddy bears?

Our world is a complex web of relationships and comparisons: things, people, we rarely let them ‘be’: we sort and filter Or if we do let someone or something ‘exist’, it’s only because we decided that they should belong to that category, ‘things that are unique’.

As these networks intersect, constant struggles occur, to debate where things and people fit, and how they relate. Good, bad, ugly, beautiful, useful, useless, familiar, foreign. It is a rhetorical battlefield with clear practical stakes, where strategies differ. Confrontation is one: my things are better than yours; another one is stealth: the things I want, let’s hide their true value from others; seduction is a third: the things you want are things I have.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s