Conor Wilson

Sensory States and Objects

Conor Wilson: Artist, Writer, Researcher

What is an object? Object Oriented Ontology challenges the philosophically (and scientifically) privileged relationship between a (human) subject and an object, and extends the definition of object to include all sorts of things – a rail network, a unicorn, the colour purple, a person.  For Graham Harman, Heidegger’s key insight was that objects withdraw from our perception – we can never fully know them, no matter what means of analysis we bring to bear. He builds on this insight, speculating that all objects, animate or inanimate, interact with and withdraw from one another. We are all ‘strange strangers’.

Sometimes, when lying between dream and awake, I have a sense of having slipped my moorings, lost my orientation – part of me has become separated and directionally confused. In this state, I feel unboundaried, attentive to ‘communications’ that I am happy to not understand. Helene Cixous, talks of the artist, the writer, as someone who receives messages, who practices a ‘…kind of receptivity, of openness, or “hospitality”…’

I play with a to and fro between material and word – exploring how making might generate a different approach to writing about material; how words might directly influence making.

Making becomes a method for uncoupling from consciousness, a meditation – how do I speak the language of the clay; how does the clay think me? David Abram writes about Merleau-Ponty’s ‘Flesh of the world’, the reciprocity of perception: ‘…my hand is able to touch things only because my hand is itself a touchable thing, and thus is entirely a part of the tactile world that it explores.’

Interpretation of an art object:

Interpretation so often engenders the habit of judgement. Let’s say that, rather than judgement, our aim is to facilitate meaningful interaction with both human and ‘more-than-human’ objects, to become an object among objects.

Don’t worry about the ‘meaning’ of the work, but focus on how your senses place you at the centre of a composite, ‘display’ object, consisting of space, light, sound, smell, text, displayed objects and, of course, bodies. How can I use my ears, my eyes, my nose, my skin, my voice? How can I contact a strange stranger and how might a stranger contact me? Imagine that you are a beam of light, playing on the surface of the art object; a sound wave bouncing off it; a fly about to land…

Imagine yourself to be a Benjaminian critic. Enter into the work and activate its subjectivity rather than making it an instrument of your own subjectivity.

Graham Harman’s philosophy, central to Object Oriented Ontology, is set out in several books (e.g. Tool-being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects, Open Court Publishing Co ,U.S. 2002, Guerrilla Metaphysics: Phenomenology and the Carpentry of Things, Open Court Publishing Co ,U.S. 2007, The Quadruple Object, Zero Books, 2011 and also available on his website:

Morton, T. Here Comes Everything: The Promise of Object-Oriented Ontology, 2011  and also zvailable at:

Cixous, H. Writing Not Yet Thought: Helene Cixous in Conversation With Adrian Heathfield. 2010

Abram, D.The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, Vintage Books; 1st Vintage Books Ed edition, 1997

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