Rehearsal for Objects Lie on a Table

Rehearsal for Objects Lie on a Table
A Composition by Emelie Chhangur

with Arrangements by
Diane Borsato, Aleesa Cohene, Erika DeFreitas, Derek Liddington, Gertrude Stein & Terrarea

Art Museum
University of Toronto
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
Hart House

18 March – 30 April, 2016

Opening Reception: March 18, 2016, 6-8 pm
Featuring Tender Buttons, a cocktail by Elle Flanders

This exhibition is a rehearsal for Gertrude Stein’s 1922 play Objects Lie on a Table. It is also a dramaturgical proposition for its contemporary staging and reception. Objects Lie on a Table is a “still life” but its composition is not simply what is fixed in the frame, static in the picture. In this non-narrative play, a constellation of activities—of objects and people coming and going—dynamically shapes its form through an arrangement that is never resolved: in Stein’s “still life” the play of objects and relations that constitute “dramatic action” are only ever “equal to its occasion.” (Objects Lie on a Table, 105) As a still-life-in-movement, Objects Lie on a Table playfully performs and plays around with pictorial conventions, as well as doing other strange and funny things. So we shall see.

Objects Lie on a Table could be considered a conversation between material objects and the spaces and people that shape and are shaped by their presence, their proximity, and their purposes. The play is a compositional experiment that takes the still life genre as a prompt to reconsider relations between subjects and objects (agency) or foreground and background (gestalt) or parts and wholes (mereology) and propose new ways of thinking arrangement that, in turn, arrange new ways of thinking. Just as Stein’s still life was composed in the continuous present—a mode of writing she likened to the pictorial innovations of her contemporaries, such as the painters Picasso or Cézanne—our rehearsal for her play today is developed as an iterative form (the rehearsal) through which to think, not about objects already arranged, but rather to think through objects that make new arrangements. We take our cue from the “nuns” that open the play. Perhaps a symbol of order and restraint, these nuns are in fact playing with objects, having “fun with funny things” (Objects Lie on a Table, 105), altering arrangements, in other words, messing with the system.

In 1922, Stein was asking questions in her time period that are equally relevant to ours—questions about relationality, systems theory, process thinking, and the ontology of objects. In Rehearsal for Objects Lie on a Table subject matter becomes the matter of subjects and its business the subjects of matter—a still life for the 21st century, perhaps. Rehearsal for Objects Lie on a Table likewise is composed of the arrangements proposed by contemporary visual artists Diane Borsato, Aleesa Cohene, Erika DeFreitas, Derek Liddington, and Terrarea. Their practices offer new possibilities for thinking through connections made in the continuous present as ways to explore the new time-sense of this historic play—now as a composition in an art gallery and as an exhibition making its own arrangements.


For more information on the exhibition, please click on “Objects on a Table and the Explanation” located in the drop down menu.