The universe of the objects that surround us includes some that cannot be reduced to their purely material essence; they circulate with added value. These objects, which may be functional, aesthetic, nostalgic or simply useless, constantly acquire such value and then lose it again. The Duchampian ready-made merely explored the mechanisms through which functional value and aesthetic value could be turned around and manipulated. In Haim Steinbach’s shelf pieces, the artist investigates the hierarchies that order a set of medium-sized, generally easy-to-transport objects purchased at different establishments. Steinbach’s shelves form the basis of a work concerned with classification. Each one consists of two differentiated parts. The first, more systematic component is the triangular shelf with its minimalist finish. With its distinct volumes and textures, this element suggests modules on which groups of differentiated objects are placed. Untitled (dust pans, door mats) No. 1 displays two black plastic dust pans on the smaller, narrower module; beside it is another, of the same proportions but larger, with four stacked door mats. The quantity of items suggests their mass production and undermines their singularity. Their availability is often a question of money, taste and opportunity. In a way, the objects placed together on the shelves not only represent themselves, they also reflect a social context. Therefore the degree of harmony or imbalance they provoke goes beyond their formal appearance. Faced with the difficulty of recreating meaning, Steinbach’s objects generally suggest formal and chromatic rhymes that give them the cohesion their functional disparity simultaneously denies. In the case of these shelves, what is challenged is their function itself, since the things on display should be on the floor. Nevertheless, the Formica mirror coating on the shelves solves this dysfunction. When the floor is reflected in the surface of the shelves, the objects are automatically situated on the reflection of the exhibition room floor. In La société du spectacle, Guy Debord warned that individuals in capitalist society are separated from their own work. The goods they buy are the same ones they have had to produce. In this context, Steinbach has stated that in his work with objects he ‘attempts to present the spectacle and deconstruct it at the same time’. In this piece the dust pans and door mats are both displaced and returned to their proper place.
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