Borders Objects: Dissolution or Exacerbation of Identity

  • Abstract:

    From the very beginning of the Early modern period, objects were designed that embedded various layers of contact between Europe and extra-European worlds. At the methodological crossroads of objects biography, material culture and transculturality, this paper will investigate so-called border objects, artifacts made in Europe with natural or artificial objects coming from the antipodes like mounted shells or Chinese porcelain. The value of context or visual horizon in the making of the meaning of objects and their ambivalent identity are key issues of this survey. In order to discuss the dissolution or exacerbation of identity that such objects embedded in themselves, this paper will address borderline cases of border objects, at times, kitsch, like a Venetian binding and a cabinet. Borderline because self and otherness are probably much more entangled in such Venetian objects than in the other European cases of border objects. The border objects are entangled objects, therefore, the identity they bear is an entangled identity, global and local at the same time. The Venetian borderline cases of border objects provide a particulary interesting light on this essential point for the definition of such objects and therefore for the question of identity because there is the problem of whether the border objects still exist in border areas as Venice where everything is mixed or hybrid or if people are so accustomed to hybridity as they are able to perceive more subtle differences. The vibration or the fluidity of meaning seems to be the more appropriate answer at the question about identity of border objects and much more in these borderline cases. These Venetian objects are exponentially ambivalent objects whose spatial ambiguity is essential. In this sense and in this context, they are special and performative cases of border objects, evidence of an unstable and ambivalent world.