"We should avoid the notion that human action and intention can always transcend materiality, and recognise how the materiality of things can disrupt and deflect human intentions. Objects can, unwittingly, carry forth their own projects." 1In other words, the materiality of objects affect us when we perceive them.
I've been thinking about the material that is bone, and also about how we place different values on different materials. How material objects are not just signifiers of what they represent, but their materiality actually embodies the symbolic.
|Gilt bone. Polymer clay, gold leaf. 2015|
I found another interesting piece of writing on the subject in artist John Newling's book An Essential Disorientation, where he considers how the religious ark or reliquary may contain a scrap of bone fragment or a dusty piece of rag, but the ark itself would be lavishly decorated with "precious" materials. It is the contrast between the two materials, the relic itself and the container as the signifier of its contents, that makes the difference:
"...the contrast between them is part of our cognition...Gold and bones combine to create a sacred memorial that questions materials as metaphors of value." 2
1 The art of decay and the transformation of substance, Joshua Pollard, in Substance, Memory, Display, Ed. Colin Renfrew et al: McDonald Institute for Archaelogical Research, 2004↩
2 An Essential Disorientation, John Newling: SARP, 2007 ↩