THE SECRET LIVES OF OBJECTS – A LOOK AT THE WORK OF KUH DEL ROSARIO
written by Polina Bachlakova
April 02, 2014
To a certain extent, our lives are structured by the relationships we maintain with the objects around us. However fleeting or constant, objects are extensions of our physical selves, complementing our bodies at every moment of every day. Yet what of the relationships objects maintain with each other—without need or want for human intervention?
As grandiose as a Rodin and the museum that encases it, or as seemingly meaningless as a mechanical pencil and the lead fitting snuggly inside, all objects create a unique dialogue and energy between each other. We humans don’t often need to consider this object-to-object relationship—but for Kuh del Rosario, it is an observation that is absolutely central to her practice.
“Lately, I’ve learned about object oriented ontology,” Kuh tells me over a coffee. “Most philosophy looks at the world from the point of view of humans, but with object oriented ontology, you can imagine this coffee lid would have a response to this coffee cup that would be just as valuable as me responding to you. So when I think about putting together all these weird objects, I’m always trying to figure out the responses of different materials against one another in creating tension, considering their unique materiality and personalities.”
The type of tension created by these materials is particular in Kuh’s work: although the materials melt together and infringe onto each others’ spaces, each sculpture comes together to feel whole—almost like an ecosystem.
“Usually I feel my work tends to be almost claustrophobic, with textures upon textures showing in small spaces,” Kuh elaborates. “But what’s weird is that my pieces always turn out so organic even though the materials are so synthetic. It’s almost like something you would find in a cave or that grew out of a petri dish.”
As far as synthetic materials go, Kuh tends to gravitate towards the discarded or the unremarkable. “I really like mundane things that occupy space—things that you don’t normally think about outside of their regular function,” she explains. Looking at Kuh’s sculptures, you’ll recognize the mundane in cups, drywall, even egg cartons—staples of mechanical reproduction, or usually banal fillers in our visual landscapes. However, these emblems of industrialization are decontextualized away from their industrial beginnings: Kuh empowers them with newfound roles and meanings as objects reworking relationships in each sculpture. For example, take Kuh’s opinion of foam.
“For the longest time, I would only work with foam,” Kuh elaborates. “What’s interesting about foam is that when you usually encounter it, it’s to protect something more precious than itself. Its main function is to fill the gaps and the spaces… but instead of using foam as something to respond to my materials, I now pick materials that would respond to the foam. It’s almost a switched role—foam started as filler, but now things are fillers to the foam.”
Although Kuh’s practice is largely rooted in developing relationships between objects, she’s no stranger to exploring relationships between human bodies through performance art. In fact, Kuh and her partner, Ryan Romero, will be collaborating on a performance piece for Yactac Gallery this upcoming June.
“When Ryan and I move together through our own personal space, it’s almost like an intuitive dance,” Kuh elaborates. “We respond to each other in a really natural way that I think will greatly contribute to this performance.”
Until June, Kuh is taking time to rest from her recent solo show at TRUCK Contemporary Art Gallery in Calgary. She’s also experiencing what it’s like to be a full-time artist: Kuh recently quit her job to commit to her art practice. “The hardest part is trying to schedule inspiration,” she admits. “It’s trying to be as productive as possible and not feel bad when at the end of the day, all I’ve done is daydream.”
Being a full-time artist isn’t without its challenges, but Kuh sees what many of us don’t: she’s driven by the relationships between objects. No matter how grandiose or how everyday, as long as the secret lives of objects exist, Kuh will keep discovering them.