Fictional Objects


Significant Objects is an art project where people buy cheap second hand stuff, then embroider wonderful stories about it, then sell it on ebay.

1) The experiment’s curators purchase objects — for no more than a few dollars — from thrift stores and garage sales.

2) A participating writer is paired with an object. He or she then writes a fictional story, in any style or voice, about the object. Voila! An unremarkable, castoff thingamajig has suddenly become a “significant” object!

3) Each significant object is listed for sale on eBay. The s.o. is pictured, but instead of a factual description the s.o.’s newly written fictional story is used. However, care is taken to avoid the impression that the story is a true one; the intent of the project is not to hoax eBay customers. (Doing so would void our test.) The author’s byline will appear with his or her story.

4) The winning bidder is mailed the significant object, along with a printout of the object’s fictional story. Net proceeds from the sale are given to the respective author. Authors retain all rights to their stories.

And lo, they sell for massively more than they were bought for. Sometimes hundreds of dollars more.

Now whether anyone can do this… or it’s working in this instance because the writers in question are pretty talented… or people are buying off the back of the kudos of the project itself… well, that’s an unknown, but I’m pretty sure the principle holds generally. People buy stories.

This is what drove Kiva (notice how I’m using past-tense, even though I still have $100 with them) – Kiva kindof blew it (for me anyway) because it transpired that the stories were being told, were stories that had already been “solved” and really, your money was going instead to the microloan bank, doing the lending – and they decided who got what.

Interesting how authenticity is required in this instance, but not (and it’s a specific ‘not’) in the case of the significant objects.

We have a really ambiguous relationship with story. Just look at Sarah Palin. Ok, don’t. Look at the people who support her. These are people who can (as far as one can tell), tie their own shoelaces… feed themselves etc. The US is really seriously, fucking itself up because to a massive chunk of the electorate, “What is True” has become less important than “What Should Be True”.

And this cuts both ways I think. When Obama got his Nobel Prize, twitter was filled with tens of thousands of people falling over themselves with congratulatory spiel-ettes, still going on about ‘hope’ – and meantime both wars are still going, and people in Guantanamo are still “awaiting trial”.

What’s changed? I mean really, what in Actual, Knock-on-Wood Reality (with a big R) has changed?

Because the only thing that I can see that’s changed is the story.

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