OBSCURE OBJETS OF DESIRE

LIN SAMSON has a lively if somewhat combative relationship with objets in her home
Let me confess: I have been involved in a loose, but amorous relationship, with a 17th century famille rose bowl with a blue underglaze. It has real depth, it’s the sort of bowl you could discuss Nietzsche with.

Look, to be honest it’s been on-off affair. I suspect it secretly enjoys annoying me. Once it even fell over in an attempt to solicit sympathy. Then, this morning, it simply fell apart; running across it was this dark mutilating crack.

Old age is partly to blame for this craven desire for attention. (It dates back to 1735.) The main reason, though, is jealousy. I had recently acquired a jewelled Fabergé egg ridged in yellow gold and encircled by coloured garlands suspended from blue sapphires beneath diamond bows. A real showboat.

Which leads me to my point: I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the inanimate has become more and more uppity. I think being called objet d’art has gone to its head. I mean, all that French. They are no longer content to sit around on shelves and look pretty or to extend a cold ceramic kiss, or swivel in lonely splendour; they’ve begun to act human.

In a newly released film by Joanna Hogg called Exhibition the main character is a house. The two human stars is a couple trapped in a modernist house that has become the third person in their emptily overcrowded marriage and which seems to shape their behaviour and moods.

On a personal level, I’ve had a lot of trouble with a bolshy Hylton Nel china parrot that has been coquetting with the idea of coming between the Fabergé egg and me for months. This morning it fell off the shelf and broke its beak.

But the real battlefield is the kitchen where the boys are brutal chauvinists with a wild scatter-gun style and there are stainless-steel fisticuffs from morning till night. The French (again!) casserole dish just hates being manhandled, no matter who. It heats up into a frenzy that burns hands, causes blisters. They all smoke and love to savage each other. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

In addition, all things are enthusiastic team workers. This week my computer broke, cellphone went on the blink, car fell apart. Why does it all happen at once? It is as if they sense my inadequacy and react in unison, passing secret and destructive messages among themselves.

Half the trouble is that objects have never had a fair press. Film stylists can conjure a whole scene and provide subtle assertions and provocative innuendo with the aid of just a few props – a French paperback with the pages as yet uncut, a Turkish cigarette in an amber holder, an espresso cup.

Walking through an antiques market, I came across a small cup and saucer decorated with a dragon with a blunt snout and a forked tail. It was a replica of a cup I had as a child. My head was instantly flooded with the most exact memories of my childhood home in Sri Lanka. The cup brought back in its entirety the dramatic partings that were so much part of my life as well as the complicated, decaying smell of the tropics.

Things can be astute hoarders of history. My grandfather died fighting in France and one of the things they sent back was a beaded rosary he had being carrying. I met a man recently who told me that these rosaries were unique to his village in Picardy and as we talked we discovered that his family had given shelter to my grandfather.

I know I haven’t always treated stuff well. I have a drawer full of single earrings. Where are their partners? Will they one day find each other, garnet drop clasping garnet drop in deep embrace?

Thoughts like this make me realise I have to tread carefully. Not too long ago, when buying a new saucepan, I asked the salesperson: “Tell me, how emotionally stable to you think this copper bottomed pan is?” She looked at me as though I was mad.

However, according to Google this attachment to objects is a well-known syndrome. In 2008, a woman changed her name to reflect her love for the Eiffel tower and now calls herself Erika La Tour Eiffel. She is founder of OS International, an organisation for Objectum-sexual people, that is, those who develop significant relationships with inanimate objects.

I have recently been seduced and abandoned by a Queen Anne table, although on reflection I couldn’t really get close to anything with such terrible legs. That said, the time has come for us to take the inanimate more seriously. Am I just imagining it or is that Art Deco lamp giving me the eye?

If you enjoyed this article, then read more of Lin’s articles for DECO here: A Purple Beanbag Came Between Us.

Follow Lin on twitter @hellschreiber
First published in The Winter Issue 96. 

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