Questions of Affordance

Affordance, the property that an object’s features reveal its potential functions, exemplifies the inextricable connection between inanimate thing and human subject. It epitomizes our desire to understand the inescapably present but nevertheless elusive external world by unifying it with internal experience.

Affordance is often projected onto design objects; things that have been created particularly for human utility as a result of one mind hypothesizing likeness to another. However, the differentiation of objects into mere-thing, tool-thing, and artwork-thing is tenuous. The same mind-reading strategy can be used to project affordance of meaning across all: an untouched Makapansgat pebble can be promoted from stone to sculpture; a rotated toilet can be elevated from urinal to Fountain.

Affordance is instantiated in an object before, during, and after it is realized by a subject’s viewer. It is a feeling, an identity, a reality touched by the convergence of internalizing object and externalizing self. It is a speculative realm of unanswerable questions.

Is the object defined by its features, its phenomena, its material and form, by something more or less? Is it the sum of these categorizations, or none at all? Can you see object-ness through an object?

Does objective reality include or exclude the subject? Does the subject include or exclude objective reality? Can you see subject-ness through an object?

Can you find self-sameness between objects, between subjects, and between object and subject? Can you cross the threshold of objective and subjective realities? Can you see the object-ness of subject-ness through an object? Can you see the subject-ness of object-ness through an object?

Affordance demonstrates how objects reveal themselves, though perhaps not completely, by incorporating the subject within. In moments when we recognize ourselves in external things and externalize ourselves into them, we further transpose the dichotomy of subject and object realms and access an ontological meeting point.