Artifacts on the Loose is a performance (and forever-in-process short film) in three parts exploring the implications of transgressing the subject-object division, the possibilities of envisioning animism within contemporary capitalist society, and potential forms of communicative exchange between people and things. The performance takes the form of what might best be called “theory-rooted speculative fiction”. A group of 22 objects escape from the holdings of a prestigious art institution. Baffled by the event, museum directors, curators, and staff are forced to speculate how and why these objects enacted an escape.
THE SPEECH The first part of the performance is in the guise of a slide-lecture delivered by the director of the museum to address questions and concerns surrounding the event to the public. Though reaching no definite conclusion, the report centers on a list of artists, writers, and critical theorists suspected of aiding and abetting the escaped objects by creating a framework under which the objects began to envision themselves as animate.
THE LETTER The second part of the performance is the reading aloud of a letter sent to the museum director by the escaped objects with the purpose of declaring both their reasoning for enacting the escape and their independence from human theory in achieving their own animation, and finally to invite the museum directors to a subject-object conference to flesh out new ways of thinking about subjects and objects. An English translation of the letter is read over the original letter, which takes the form of a Morse code recording on cassette.
THE CONFERENCE The conference takes the form of a short play (the third part of the performance) in which a family is gathered together for a psychometric séance to contact a lost loved one. The play takes its premise from the multiple definitions of the word séance: the gathering together of people for discussion/lecture or an investigation/exhibition of spiritualistic phenomena. Though the goal of the séance is to communicate with the spirits of the dead through objects, the objects soon begin to rebel and speak out for themselves.