“We live today in a world of ever more stuff – what sometimes seems a deluge of goods and shopping. We tend to assume that this has two results: that we are more superficial, and that we are more materialistic, our relationships to things coming at the expense of our relationships to people. We make such assumptions, we speak in cliches, but we have rarely trid to put these assumptions to the test. By the time you finish this book you will discover that, in many ways, the opposite is true; that possessions often remain profound and usually the closer our relationships are with objects, the closer our relationships with people.”
Quote above is from The Comfort of Things by Daniel Miller, a UK anthropologist. Thanks to my friend Keith and his “Domestic Spaces” reading group for telling me about this book. I’m not convinced it’s not a tiny bit overoptimistic, but it’s entertaining and provocative. Its finding that belongings and decor both reflect and enhance social relationships is a relief from a perhaps puritan, protestant view that decor and acquisitiveness are an alienated substitute for those very relationships. Find the book here.
PS This doesn’t mean we should all go out and consume a lot of crap! For a more theoretical critique of why we collect, see Susan Stewart’s book On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection.
Photos here are from Flickr; click on them for more information. Exception is Glenn and Gina O’Brien in the swinging chair, by Todd Selby.
“… [Our subjects] put up ornaments; they laid down carpets. They selected furnishing and got dressed that morning. Some things may be gifts or objects retained from the past, but they have decided to live with them, to place them in lines or higgledy-piggledy; they made the room minimalist or crammed to the gills. These things are not a random collection. They have been gradually accumulated as an expression of that person or household.”