Things and Stuff and Stuff and Things

my things.JPGSo I've been moving for the past couple weeks (I have a lot of stuff and far too much time on my hands) and I have been inevitably, almost predictably, haunted by the eternal question: how many records/books/neckties/old issues of Blaze does one actually need? As much as I try to abide by the principles of simplicity and carbon self-responsibility, principles which I am reminded of each time I move, when it comes to "things," I have concluded that I am, sadly, a maximalist. My collection of Japanese books about office supplies would suggest as much (though, I must add that they are beautiful books...).

Yesterday, while browsing a bookstore for more things I will have to box up and move again next spring, I came across Swiss (?) photographer Gabriele Grundler's My Things, a small book that both emboldened and depressed me. In the midst of moving apartments a few years back, Grundler began asking herself the same questions about her possessions, whether she would ever wear this sweater again, why she had held onto James' Laid, etc. So she began taking pictures of her "things"--2600 things in total.

my things 2.JPGIt is mesmerizing, browsing a catalog of someone's emptied-out apartment. It's impossible not to wonder about each object's provenance, to judge some things and envy others, though the sheer immensity of her collection overwhelms this kind of patient scrutiny. Patterns develop--this paperback obviously inspired the purchase of that one, this scarf matches that sweater, things of that sort. But one struggles to piece together a narrative of Grundler's life. The question that animated these photos--who is this girl?--never really comes into focus. Our things might not be a mirror to our true selves, whatever that is. But they do depict our capacity (passion?) to consume. I bought it, of course. And now it's part of my things.

More on Edition Patrick Frey here.

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Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. More

Hua Hsu teaches in the English Department at Vassar College and writes about music, sports, and culture. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Bookforum, Slate, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe Ideas section and The Wire (for whom he writes a bi-monthly column). He is on the editorial board for the New Literary History of America.

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