Collection of geological specimens and other objects at Calke Abbey, Derbyshire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
The debate about the significance of Pinterest (initiated in a post by Enfilade which I responded to in this post) has been continuing with a post on the blog Unmaking Things, run by students on the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum History of Design MA course.
Two pairs of shoes at Mr Straw’s House, Worksop, Nottinghamshire. ©National Trust Images/Geoffrey Frosh
In this new post entitled ‘Digital Adornment’ Marilyn Zapf notes that Pinterest seems to echo the research of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu in mapping taste and class in 1960s France. But rather than asking people to complete questionnaires about their preferences, as Bourdieu did, the present-day researcher can find in Pinterest a huge ready-made data set relating to taste (or ‘taste’).
Textile scraps probably used to plug draught gaps in the late eighteenth century, found at a farm on the Kingston Lacy estate, Dorset. ©National Trust Images/Cristian Barnett
Marilyn’s post has made me reflect on how Pinterest paradoxically increases the distance between an individual and an object, while appearing to bring them closer.
On the one hand, the choice of images available through the internet is huge and is exponentially increasing. The choice for the individual to excercise his or her taste, with the help of Pinterest’s user-friendly software, apears to be almost limitless. Objects zoom in on us from all angles.
Victorian scrap screen at Arlington Court, Devon. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
On the other hand, Marilyn notes that “Pinterest provides a way to consume without purchasing, to collect without owning.” As access increases, ownership – both physically and in the sense of commitment or knowledge – appears to diminish, and our grasp of the object appears to be more elusive than ever.
1950s bra packaging discovered at Corfe Castle, Kingston Lacy estate, Dorset. ©National Trust Images/Cristian Barnett
Also, the very power of the Pinterest concept, in allowing everyone to create their own ‘art’ gallery (simultaneously private, in that it reflects the individual’s personal taste, and public, in that everyone can see it) has the effect of radically, even brutally democratising the value of images. Great works of art and everyday objects, the beautiful and the tasteless are all reduced or elevated to the level of ‘found objects’.
Military dress uniform found in the private apartments at Knole, Kent. ©National Trust Images/Myles New
This, in turn, reminds me of how Marcel Duchamp transformed mundane objects into art purely through his choice of them, most famously through the urinal that he displayed as a sculpture entitled ‘Fountain’.
Duchamp also explored the opposite strategy, by for instance transforming the Mona Lisa into something akin to a joke cartoon character. Now, in Pinterest’s democratic visual playground, life appears to be mimicking art.
Objects found under the floorboards at Nunnington Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond
Marilyn also perceptively writes that by using Pinterest ”the consumer (in the guise of a collector) is made visible. [...] The networking site puts the consumer on display alongside consumption itself.”
For better or for worse, Pinterest objectifies our choices, and, through them, objectifies us. As we all become producer-consumers (or prosumers), we all turn into someone else’s found objects.