Subject/Object Relations | 2010

Subject/Object Relations is a research project and participatory installation. To briefly summarize the protocol of the performance, each subject is measured with a measuring tape, given a positive evaluative comment about their body or not, and either photographed or not. Each subject’s data is recorded, coded, and plotted onto time-based graphs. Subjects are also represented in a color-coded bulletin board of experimental conditions, the Factorial Matrix. Factorial matrices are used in experimental psychology to organize subjects according to the combination of variables that they experience, otherwise known as the experimental condition. One hundred subjects are required to gain statistical significance for data analysis.

Objectification is inherent in the processes of both the fields of art and psychology, as ideas are reified and concretized, studied and analyzed. Psychological experiments that have been done on objectification have been restricted to diary studies, vignettes and lab studies, which often have questionable levels of generalizability to real world applications. No experiments have manipulated the condition of objectification in a public setting (where they sometimes occur), but art performances, especially social interventions, frequently occur in public settings and often depend on the presence of a public. In Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained (1977), Martha Rosler represented scientific objectification by having her body literally measured by people in lab coats. This manipulation has not been considered for use in psychology. No experiments about objectification have used photography as an independent variable, although theories about objectification in art have often centered around photography.

Research in this area has been restricted because the potential for psychological harm to the subjects could be shown to outweigh the possible benefits: ethically, it is a gray area. From a unique perspective within the field of art, Subject/Object Relations questions the ethical and conceptual restrictions that have been imposed from inside the field of psychology, some of which have limited the development of research, while also exploring the relationship that art and psychology can have with each other.