These are objects that “tousle” one another, that have “secret lives.”

In a somewhat rare move for a work of philosophy, Alien Phenomenology contains a rich color insert that includes several photographs by Stephen Shore from the 1970s. Shore’s images are known for what Michael Fried calls “the labor of construal” they require their viewers to undertake in order to understand the relationships between the objects contained within them. I’m pausing on the book’s specific use of “Room 28 Holiday Inn, Medicine Hat, Alberta, 1974” primarily because of its mostly superficial simultaneity with Nagel’s 1974 essay — there may not be much more immediately relevant about that simultaneity, and yet it operates what Bogost evokes as “the dense meanwhile of being,” a meanwhile he sees appearing forcefully within Shore’s photographs themselves. “Room 28” (see image) depicts a set of mundane objects — a lamp, a television, a chair, and ashtray, brocade curtains — yet their everydayness, Bogost suggests, is not what matters. Instead, the image’s composition “underscores unseen things and relations” between the objects, or “register[s] the world.” Instead of the list of objects I just provided, here’s how the photograph looks to Bogost the alien phenomenologist: “In Alberta, a textured, rust-colored lamp with shade sits near the edge of a table, while an ashtray holds down a motel survey. Nearby, a window lever emerges from behind curtains.” These are objects that “tousle” one another, that have “secret lives.”

via Kate Marshall on Alien Phenomenology, or, What It’s Like To Be a Thing / How to Be an Alien.