An enormous sphere is lying in semi-darkness. It’s not immediately clear what material it’s made of or how much it weighs. Or is it a projection? This ambiguity makes it something mysterious and alienating. As a spectator, you are standing next to an object with a life of its own that’s not easy to fathom. The basis of this installation, PELLET, is Franz Kafka’s short story ‘The Cares of a Family Man’ (1919). In this story, the family man mentioned in the title talks about Odradek, a mysterious creature that regularly lives with him at the bottom of the stairs. Odradek consists of a star-shaped spool with tangled yarn around it, to which a stick with a kind of leg is attached. Odradek can talk and move but is otherwise a ‘useless’ object. As with Odradek, it is pleasant to be in the company of PELLET. But at the same time, it’s a disturbing figure that makes you think about the hidden life of objects. Both PELLET and Odradek are examples of how crossing the boundaries that separate subject and object can lead to an eerie experience. ‘Living things’ with human characteristics are literally impossible to identify and acquire something oppressive and uneasy. The alienation caused by objects was a way for Kafka to talk about how modern man becomes alienated in a world of new technologies, violence and bureaucracy. This is also a feeling that PELLET evokes in the viewer: if objects and systems continue without needing humans, what is our place?
PELLET was part of K, a society (2010), a series of ten installations for which Kafka’s work was the starting point. As a ‘performative object’, it is characteristic of the way in which objects and machines are as performative as human dancers and actors in Kris Verdonck’s work.