November 25, 2018
The sixth PROJECT:OBJECT volume is a 25-part series of true stories about fossils — which is to say, objects that bear witness to a vanished way of life.
Right when I started dating my now-wife Chandler, I bought a hand chair on Craigslist for $60. It is exactly what you are picturing: A plastic chair, in the shape of a hand, where the “seat” is the palm and the backing is four fingers and a thumb.
I considered it Mod and Funky and Art Deco, while Chandler deemed it “tacky” and “weirdly dirty” and “nonfunctional as a chair, I mean seriously Jason what’s the point of owning this?”
My wife was, as she often is, correct. One cannot sit comfortably on the Hand. You cannot curl up on the Hand to watch a movie or read a book. Were we to replace the Hand with, say, a lounging chair, or a reclining chair, or any chair that is not shaped like a part of the human anatomy, our apartment would be improved.
And yet: I refuse to get rid of the Hand. I will not remove it from our apartment decor, no matter the strength of the arguments for amputation.
Partially, the reason for my stubbornness is simple: I enjoy being the owner of a Hand. When a friend visits for the first time, the comments come in two varieties: “Oh! You have a hand chair!” and “Oh… you have… a hand chair…” I like possessing a Rorschach test. I am not much of a conversationalist; it is easy to talk about the Hand in the corner of the room.
But if you were to dig deeper — and I have, because with each Crate & Barrel catalog that arrives in the mail I am forced to confront the Hand — you would find something aspirational, and a little embarrassing.
The previous owner of the Hand Chair was an energetic old artist living in a grand co-op in the West Village. She wore a bandana; I was immediately envious of her. She struck me as one of those New Yorkers who bought her enormous apartment for $6,000 back when New York was Gritty and Hip and everyone was friends with Andy Warhol.
This Artist seemed glad that I, in particular, had purchased the Hand. “I know you’ll give it a good home,” she confided, as though she were talking about a kitten and not a chair shaped like someone raising the roof.
This is the moment that doomed me. I was already projecting all sorts of embarrassing sepia-tinged fantasies of the Old New York on this woman — imagining her, fresh-faced and in overalls, sipping a beer at the Gaslight Cafe as a young Bobby Dylan strummed guitar.
I was no longer purchasing the Hand; the Hand had been entrusted to me by a woman who may as well have been Lou Reed.
Everyone arrives in New York with an image of themselves as a successful New Yorker. That image alters (or dies) based on any number of factors, including real estate prices, love, economics, the passage of time, the Siren’s Call of New Jersey, whatever. I no longer envision myself in an East Village loft, hosting “happenings,” wearing a turtleneck. But I still have my Hand Chair, don’t I?
FOSSILS: INTRODUCTION | Allegra Huston on SKATAWAY JACKET | Kevin Obsatz on HOMEMADE NUNCHUKS | Ian Bogost on DESKTOP TELEPHONE | Jeff Lewonczyk on CHA-CHA JACKET SCRAP | Kelly Horan on VOLVO KEY | Sarah Rich on WESTFEST EARRINGS | Cynthia Joyce on MELODICA | Kevin Brockmeier on SALADMOBILE | Adam Harrison Levy on PASSPORT HOLDER | Marissa Frayer on BABY BLANKET | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on RML BOOKEND | Jae Nichelle on SHEET MUSIC | Sean Patrick Walsh on TYPEWRITER | Andrew Innes on BUST OF DUCK | Carla Sinclair on FACTSHEET FIVE | Chapell Ellison on SLEIGH BELL | Malcolm Evans on “QUEEN MARY” FOB | Jason Gilbert on HAND CHAIR | Karl Taro Greenfeld on OPIUM KIT | Tony Leone on MODEL TANK | Dave Boerger on TEEN BIBLE | Chelsey Johnson on BREYER HORSES | Erin M. Routson on PAPER WALLET | Alissa Walker on JUKEBOX | Adrienne Crew on FISH SCALER.
FLAIR: INTRODUCTION | Cliff Kuang on ROLEX DATEJUST | Ethan Zuckerman on LAPTOP STICKERS | Ann Shoket on LEATHER JACKET | Kembrew McLeod on KEMBREW MERCH | Paola Antonelli on MERMAID TEARS | & 20 MORE.
LOST OBJECTS (vol. 1): INTRODUCTION | Kate Bernheimer on MULLET WIG (ill. Amy Evans) | Dan Piepenbring on COLOGNE (ill. Josh Neufeld) | Doug Dorst on STRATOCASTER (ill. John Holbo) | Paul Lukas on VANILLA BEAN (ill. Allison Bamcat) | Mimi Lipson on DODGE DART (ill. Mister Reusch) | & 20 MORE.
ILLICIT OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Kio Stark on PEEPSHOW TOKEN | Sari Wilson on TOMBSTONE PARTS | Annalee Newitz on CAR-BOMB REMNANT | Tito Bottitta on MOONINITE DEVICE | Eric Bennett on DIRTY MAGAZINE | & 20 MORE.
TALISMANIC OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Veda Hille on CROCHET SHEEP | Gary Panter on DINOSAUR BONES | Jami Attenberg on SELENITE CRYSTAL | Annie Nocenti on MINIATURE DICE | Wayne Curtis on CLOCK WINDING KEY | & 20 MORE.
POLITICAL OBJECTS: INTRODUCTION | Luc Sante on CAMPAIGN PAMPHLETS | Lydia Millet on PVC POLAR BEAR | Ben Greenman on MATCHBOX CAR | Rob Baedeker on PRESIDENTS PLACEMAT | L.A. Kauffman on WHEATPASTE POSTER | & 20 MORE.
SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.