Object Origins

postcard stacked3Damia Smith has long been fascinated with interactions between humans and their world, and has often worked with themes of empathy. Her current project, The Weight of an Object, encourages a similar consideration of how our purchasing decisions impact other humans, as well as environments through out the world.

When speaking about themes in her practice Smith said she wants to be “making people aware of how others experience life”. The Weight of an Object brings awareness to the impact everyday objects can have. What materials go into making them, where did those materials come from, who made them, and how could having those answers change your buying habits? Would they change?

As a maker Smith is not only very conscientious about where her own materials come from but also sources the other objects in her world and considers the ethics that go along with them.

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object sourceThe source/history of common material objects is something that is often unknown to us – perhaps because we ourselves do not consider it or because the companies are not forthcoming about their manufacturing processes. In her project, Smith will be looking at three specific objects: an iPhone, TOM’s shoes, and a KU t-shirt, all the kind of purchases that are well integrated in our daily lives. She has conducted meticulous research concerning where these objects come from and how they are made.

Participation is essential to Smith’s project. She is manifesting how the objects she has chosen have a “metaphorical weight” by attaching a large physical burden (plexi structure) to each one. Smith hopes the ethical weight accompanying each object will become tangible through the interaction of people who will pull on the consumer items and discover that the entire structure comes along too.

The structure itself is constructed of Plexiglas on which Smith will sketch diagrams, charts, pathways, and arrows, creating a map of how the raw materials are transformed into the final object that the consumer purchases.

She chose Plexiglas not only because it made sense for a piece that would be outside, pulled on etc. but also because of its transparency – another metaphorical detail. All of Smith’s research is documented and cited, and she can tell you the source of every fact she is including in this project. She is also urging transparency surrounding the products she is investigating: Are the companies clear about all their processes or are they hiding something from consumers?

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attching wheelsThe Plexi structure will also showcase a short video from the interviews that Smith conducted on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence. The artist asked various people questions to gauge their knowledge-base concerning where objects came from and how they were made, then gave them some information regarding these products and recorded their reactions.

Something Smith learned from her interviews was that “people often have no idea! They don’t think about where things come from, which is interesting and upsetting at the same time.” These findings only prove how informative The Weight of an Object will be. In a simple but powerful way Damia Smith’s research and passionate advocacy will encourage consumers to further question their favorite possessions.

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Damia SmithSmith will be inviting the public to interact with her structure from 1pm – 5pm on three different days at 900 Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, KS. The focus for each day will be: an iPhone April 11th, TOM’S shoes April 25th, and a KU t-shirt May 9th. In addition to the public interactions Smith will also be giving a lecture on April 21st at 7:00pm at The Commons at Spooner Hall (1340 Jayhawk Blvd. Lawrence, KS).

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