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Throw it away, it's useless

by Felix Fuentes

get rid of something
it is a hygienic gesture
which allows to rearrange
our life…

Getting rid of something is a hygienic gesture that allows us to rearrange our lives: an old sweater, a shabby cupboard or a mobile phone with a shattered screen. This gesture brings mental clarity, something like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly (some call it reborn, although only the epidermis is involved in this process).

Deep down behind these gestures there is a qualitative assessment: “this is no longer useful”, “this object is finished” (thus also ending our life together with the pot in question with a stroke of the pen).

"There was a time when the value of things was measured, not by their quality or their symbolic value, but by their ability to be repaired over and over again."

It is true that the more symbolic charge we have attributed to the object, the more difficult it will be for us to get rid of it: this magazine from when I was seven, the scarf my first boyfriend gave me, the salt shaker we took in that cute restaurant... Sustained junk just for the additional narrative we can contribute. Perhaps today some are saved, but it is also true that the number of objects that surround us and that we possess make this narrative, which almost reconstructs our biographies, become more complicated (in part also because we could name an object for every minute of our lives).

However, there was a time when the value of things was measured, not by their quality or their symbolic value, but by their ability to be repaired over and over again. Even if they already limp in the function for which they had been designed, they could be found alternatives more in line with their disability. This longevity may have been in some way the result of necessity (“this has to last because, literally, there is no money to buy another one”), but the truth is that if we believe what the saying says that necessity is a virtue , and we do not take it too literally, in each recomposed object there is a small lesson.

Because thick layers of time were accumulating on those objects, repaired over and over again, times that were also ours. And in the end it happened that the objects also ended up containing our lives, in the same way that our muscles, our bones and the wrinkles on our faces do. These objects, deep down, are like the teeth of a small child that do not want to disappear without further ado and need an additional narrative; stories that end up summoning the entire universe, whether in the form of a mouse, a fairy, a squirrel or Mari on the roof.

All this reminds us of another story.

Dorothea Lange was an American photographer who was active from the 1930s to the 1950s of the 20th century (although she is actually one of those women who has not stopped being active since she was born). Perhaps his best known contribution is the one he made during the years of the great economic depression of the twenties of the last century (yes, the one in which we were the emigrants).

Especially that of that kind of contemporary Madonna that made its protagonist go from occupying a dumpy stall arranged with four sticks and dilapidated fabrics, to inhabiting the imagination of generations. The photograph was titled Migrant Mother and perhaps the mundane title served to pay homage, not only to those who appeared in the image, but also to the rest of us, basically wandering orphans without shelter.

And perhaps the impact that this image had on Dorothea was what led her to start a book that deep down she did not see published in her lifetime, but for which she took photographs over the years (some thousand in all). The location photographed this time was relatively close to his home in San Francisco. A full-fledged shelter of thick planks overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was a set of cabins, without electricity or running water, which had been built in the 1930s and were offered for rent (to this day they can continue to be occupied and are kept in exactly the same conditions).

And in the end it happened that the objects also ended up containing our lives, in the same way that our muscles, our bones and the wrinkles on our faces do.

The central theme of the book was freedom. But beware, such a big word does not fit in that little house, on the other hand, always overflowing with relatives of all sizes (children, grandchildren...). The “freedom” that Dorothea Lange wanted to show was what the children were instinctively capable of perceiving: “The house was not a summer house; to me it represented something much more elemental. The house was a protection against the wind and the weather, a thick plank to hold on to”. And this conception of the elemental acted as a communicating vessel with the “freedom” that the children perceived and materialized when they appeared sweaty, dirty and covered in sand. Because that freedom was material, photographable and tangible.

Before we said that the life of objects, at least some of them, also contains ours. Belén assures that she remembers herself sitting on that small stool. The same one that her grandmother, a very small lady, used to rummage through the cupboard.

It is possible that freedom, ours, the one that makes us the way we are and ends up surrounded by what we have, is locked up in the cracks of those objects. If you look carefully you will see how it is drawn on these short, thick and fragile planks.

Deep down, his writing is also ours.

Size guide

A. measure the inside diameter of a ring

b. look for the equivalence between the mm. and the size