Leonardo Reviews: The Way Things Go by Aaron Jaffe

By Jan Baetens
Leonardo Reviews

The Way Things Go by Aaron JaffeIn the long list of books on objects and things--the thing being the object that suddenly becomes visible in its stubborn materiality and cultural complexity--this is a very, very special one. Not in the sense that its theoretical references are new: Benjamin, Beck, Duchamp, Virilio, Dufy--most readers interested in critical theory and modernism will feel immediately at home--however, home will not prove a comfort zone here. And neither is this book special in the sense that one may feel lost when discovering the kind of objects or things analysed by Jaffe: soap, felt erasers, urinals, can openers, fake ink blots, etc.: There is no surprise with such a selection. Only books seem to offer a dissonant note in this industrial silly symphony, and it is certainly not by chance that Jaffe opens his thinking on objects and things with a challenging musing on something that his students, for the first time in his career, do no longer recognize as an item that belongs to their daily life. From the very start, that most typical of objects, the scholarly book, that transparent container of pure ideas, is turned into a thing that one suddenly feels as something weird and uncanny.

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