Past Pleasures – Research & Photography

»The Essence of an object has something to do with the way it turns into trash.« Roland Barthes

Brief: A self-initiated project and follow-up from Scratching the Surface book (2013), that explores our relationship with objects, their meaning to us and finally their decay. The ideal stage for the project was Samuel Burns in Scotland. Back in 1947 it was founded as a firewood company turned clearance company, which sells the goods on a small yard in Preston Pans. Burns resides between two worlds – one are the halls filled to the ceilings with objects waiting patiently to be brought back to another life – the other past pleasures randomly curated in the bushes and forgotten behind the sheds.

Outcome: Framing the photographs as a future finding in 2233, both an anthropological as well as a digital-archeological  archive, though incomplete, helps to establish the necessary distance for the viewer. In that way we can ‘look back at today’ and ask questions about the object-human relationship, why we value things over others and what life-cycles are created by our economy. Not only consumer objects have been photographed (well-known influences would be Pieter Hugo’s electronic wastelands in Ghana “Permanent Error”), but also seemingly value-able objects that may have had meaning for their owners. What we find at Samuel Burns is then not only the connoted data of the past, a product of a suggested no-alternative economical model, but our immediate entanglement in it all.

The photographs are printed on thin acetate and placed between see-through plates so that they can only be properly viewed with a white plate. Viewing the images becomes a ritual and by the same token reading their meaning. An introduction text describes how the photographs have been retrieved batch by batch and clues have been taken from them about the years 2012, 2017, 2018 and 2020 with the aid of the sparingly available camera metadata. A box was custom-made and laser-engraved. The number 1 suggests that there could be more locations and archives within the filename Past Pleasures.


Exhibited in:
»Discourse« Exhibition, Edinburgh 2019
»Ways of Seeing«, Glasgow 2020 (postponed November)
»Open20/21«, Amsterdam 2020 (postponed and relocated to the UK due to Covid-19)