The Bureau of Suspended Objects
The world is not a solid continent of facts sprinkled by a few lakes of uncertainties, but a vast ocean of uncertainties speckled by a few islands of calibrated and stabilized forms.
– Bruno Latour
The Bureau of Suspended Objects is a one-person organization and archive that was originally operated through an artist residency at the Recology dump in San Francisco. The residency allows artists daily access to the public disposal area, where unwanted objects are discarded and processed on their way to the landfill and other locations. From June to September 2015, objects in the B.S.O. archive existed physically at the office location (at the dump). All 200 objects continue to exist digitally at on the B.S.O. site as well as in the book, The Archive of the Bureau of Suspended Objects (available for purchase as a book or as a PDF here). Currently, the B.S.O. is operating at Facebook, acquiring objects not from the dump but from visitors who had been meaning to get rid of those objects ("pre-trash") anyway. The B.S.O. has also collected unwanted objects at the Palo Alto Art Center.
Activities of the B.S.O. stem from the assumption that we are estranged even from those objects closest to us, or that their inner workings and past lives are too often experienced as opaque and inaccessible. As such, research at the B.S.O. involves learning to "read" and understand an object on its own terms -- to understand why and how it came into being.
In general, the B.S.O. seeks to:
An exhibition of the BSO took place on Recology SF on September 18 and 19, 2015. Visitors to the archive were able to scan QR codes on each of the objects in order to be taken to a page with information about that object (the story of its manufacturing, Street View of the factory, company history, retail and used value, links to TV commercials, etc.). Some items were exhibited next to screens playing their original TV commercials or other related video (for instance, Item 171, Apple PowerBook G4, was exhibited next to a video of Steve Jobs rhapsodizing about its titanium body at MacWorld in 2002). Using the Layar app, visitors could also 1) scan photos of archived items in order to see an overlay showing the new, product photo version, 2) scan fragments of objects in order to see the entire thing, and 3) scan digital prints (Things Made in Asia and Things Made in North America) to see a text overlay showing where each item was manufactured.
Above is a preview of The Archive of the Bureau of Suspended Objects (378 pp.), available for online purchase here. Click the fullscreen button for easier viewing.