Artists Play With Objectified Ideas

A Review of “PDF-Objects” at Mana Contemporary


“Wittgenstein and Popper walk into a bar…” is a risky setup for a joke. It requires at least a blinking knowledge of great debates in analytic philosophy, a bit of trivia above the par of a potent potable. If we can imagine a joke book filled with witticisms on theory and philosophy, it might look something like “PDF-Objects” at Mana Contemporary. If this sounds like fun to you, then you’ll likely enjoy the show’s punchline.

The premise of the exhibition is fairly simple: the organizers, Jason Lazarus and Sean Ward, invited over fifty artists to email personally influential texts via PDF, as well as instructions for objects—a twenty-dollar limit and they must be easily procurable—to pair with the texts. The results of these readymade/text sommeliers generally fall in three camps: a material setup that illustrates a premise of the text (a single unlit white tea candle on Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te-Ching”); an object that when paired with the text makes a humorous one-liner (an unopened box of tissues next to “Das Kapital”); the text obscured or supplanted by the object (William James’ “What Pragmatism Means” in a rat trap)….

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