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Le Poids des objets: A Collaborative Project

The project Le Poids des objets (The Burden of Objects, 2009-16), paradigmatic of the gestures of collecting and archiving involved in de Groot’s work, also solicits the collaboration of individuals in order to gather traces of a phenomenon that is difficult to grasp: what ties us to certain objects which, for various reasons, more insistently attach themselves to our fleet of material goods despite their highly everyday quality, their obsolescence and the fact that they are no longer useful. While carrying out an artistic residency at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG) in 2009, de Groot appealed to the residents of Lethbridge for “anything that belongs to a difficult to define category: ordinary objects that no longer have any use that people keep with or without attachment, consciously or not, sometimes hesitatingly because they can’t resolve to throw them out.”(5) In the gallery, people who brought objects to her were invited to leave comments on the particular history of an object, their reasons for getting rid of it and where it had been stored in their home. These anecdotes were added to a collection underway at the time and which grew, over the course of residencies and exhibitions from 2009 to 2012, to some 1,800 non-descript objects: ordinary, uninteresting, useless or damaged. Seen as tokens enabling access to a multitude of individual experiences tied to cumbersomeness, the objects and stories of this collection became the two sides of a project rooted in materiality and our relations with the material goods we accumulate. In the same way that the objects were replayed by the way they were shown – arranged by series, clustered in the exhibition space, drawn, photographed, inventoried – the textual information is sampled, reproduced, sifted through, regrouped and reorganized. Sentences taken from the responses of the objects’ donors to the artist’s questionnaire, along with letters and audio recordings from the collecting process, were incorporated into her images and installations in the form of lists, information sheets and archival documents.

This factual and anecdotal information is behind the incorporation of certain objects to the collection while at the same time conferring on them an identity that is inseparable from the individual experience with which they are tied up.

This presence of stories told by others would be reworked by the artist at every stage of the project, without however reducing the object to its source.i In the photographs Inventaire I (Inventory I, 2009) and Port de tête (Weighing on the Head, 2009), the sequence of images and the accumulation of objects covering de Groot’s head are accompanied by a series of short phrases describing friendships that have faded over time, a memory to be saved or erased, the simple inertia of a useless or unfamiliar object, the importance of objects received as gifts.