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Above: A luminous mural by Aniekan Udofia in Adams Morgan, Washington D.C.
My personal philosophy is to do everything backwards, or out of “order.” My way of completing tasks and understanding the objects that assist these processes is by turning them inside out—figuratively and often physically. To subvert utility is to consciously stop taking functional objects for granted-not necessarily in their material value, but more so in the prescription of their utility. For this body of work, my philosophy prompted me to conceive every possible way particular objects can and can’t be used. Then, I found the proof that intended, commercial uses are restrictive; Afterwards, I was able to signal or celebrate the freedom within the complex potential of such objects. The notion of intended utility reflects the power dynamics of a capitalistic society. Intended uses for products (that claim to be manufactured for specific functions) enforce capitalism’s pervasive power over the actions of what Michel Foucault called, ‘Docile Bodies’ in Discipline and Punish. This strategic enforcement of power tells the consumer, “You are not functional. You are broken. Buy this, use it the correct way, and you will be acceptable.” Subverting the utility of these objects is ultimately a subversion of society telling the individual how to live its life. It is an exercise in overthrowing a force that tells the individual what choices to make and how to make them. To subvert utility was to make the objects unusable, disabled, precarious, and dangerous. To thwart the context of such objects was to also say that there is a problem with the mentality around the objects, and the system—rather than a defect within the human individual. With the exception of the use of the color red, the overall neutrality of this color scheme is intended to signal some uniformity, the ubiquity of capitalism, and the conscious consumer’s plight. Maybe we cannot entirely avoid being docile bodies, but we can always question it and be conscious of it . My hope is to encourage onlookers to investigate reality, society, and the way objects are used.