Silent Spaces: Allowing Objects to Talk

Megan Sherritt 1
  • 1 Western University, , London, Canada


Object-oriented ontology (OOO) is a philosophy that asks us to step outside the human-centric view of the world to recognize that objects have realities of their own. Although we cannot directly access a thing-in-itself, we can still come to know something about it through an indirect access that Graham Harman suggests is provided by aesthetics, specifically the metaphor. In the metaphor, we step into the place of the object-in-itself (that withdraws) and experience a taste of its reality. This main purpose of this article is to show that the visual arts—specifically Haim Steinbach’s art works—offer a different way to know objects. Steinbach “arranges” found objects on shelves; this emphasis on “arrangement” raises questions about the nature of the space between objects. I argue that it is this space between objects (rather than the indirect contact with objects) that grants us some access to the thing-in-itself. By relating the spaces between objects to silence, I show that it is in these spaces that objects speak. In other words, the theatricality of the metaphor Harman privileges for understanding the object only exists in a silence that emerges from the spaces between objects.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Garcia, Tristan. Form and Object: A Treatise on Things. Translated by Mark Allan Ohm and Jon Cogburn Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

  • Harman, Graham. Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political. London: Pluto Press, 2014.

  • Harman, Graham. Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything. New York: Penguin, 2018.

  • Harman, Graham. “On Vicarious Causation.” In “Speculative Realism,” vol. 2 of Collapse, edited by Robin Mackay, 187–221. Oxford: Urbanomic, 2007.

  • Harman, Graham. “The Road to Objects.” Continent 3:1 (2011), 171–179.

  • Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany: State University of New York, 2010.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological Philosophy, First Book: General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology. Translated by F. Kersten, vol. 2, Edmund Husserl Collected Works. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982.

  • Husserl, Edmund. Logical Investigations. Translated by. J. N. Findlay. London: Routledge, 1973.

  • Nancy, Jean-Luc. The Inoperative Community. Edited and translated by Peter Connor. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

  • Plato. Symposium. Translated by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff. In Plato: Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper, 457–505. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 1997.

  • Rovatti, Pier Aldo. “Transformations in the Course of Experience.” In Weak Thought, edited by Gianni Vattimo and Pier Aldo Rovatti, translated by Peter Carravetta, 53–74. Albany: State University of New York, 2012.

  • Schwab, Gabriele. Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

  • Steinbach, Haim. “Haim Steinbach.” Interview with Peter Schwenger. Bomb Magazine 121, October 1, 2012.

  • Steinbach, Haim. “Haim Steinbach: ‘It Was a Concept that Generated a New Historical Movement in Contemporary Art.’” Interview by Mark Westall. Fad Magazine, January 3, 2018.

  • Steinbach, Haim. “Not a Readymade.” Interview with Anthony Huberman. Mousse Magazine. December 2012–January 2013: 190–197.

  • Steinbach, Haim. Supremely Black. 1985. Plastic laminated wood shelf, two ceramic pitchers, three cardboard detergent boxes, 29 × 66 × 13 in. Smithsonian Institute.

  • Steinbach, Haim. Untitled (Cabbage, Pumpkin, Pitchers) #1. 1986. Plastic laminated-wood shelf, ceramic tureen, foam-stuffed polyester pumpkin, three ceramic Hall pitchers, 54 3/16 × 84 × 27 ½ inches, Bomb Magazine. Fall 2012.

  • Turkle, Sherry. Reclaiming Conversation. New York: Penguin, 2015.


Journal + Issues

Open Philosophy is an international Open Access, peer-reviewed academic journal covering all areas of philosophy. The objective of Open Philosophy is to foster free exchange of ideas and provide an appropriate platform for presenting, discussing and disseminating new concepts, current trends, theoretical developments and research findings related to the broadest philosophical spectrum.