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Monday, February 19, 2018

When visiting a museum, it is often hard for me to decide what to find more intriguing: The exhibited artworks or the visitors walking carefully among them, observing them. Hardly ever do they physically touch, or if it happens, then in shyly hidden ways. Especially when it comes to everyday design objects, there seems to be a big gap in between the visitors and the exhibited pieces, which are locked away from their original function: to be touched and used. During my last visit at the Stedelijk Museum there was for instance a person standing for quite a long while infront of a vitrine where, in between other objects, Kaj Francks „Kilta Services“ was being exhibited.

Franck was one of the designers who developed the „Iittala philosophy“: creating design that is both beautiful and functional, and lasts a lifetime. „Does not ‘beautiful’ ultimately mean necessary, functional, justified, right?“ (Kaj Franck, 1978)

In the center: service „Kilta“, glazed ceramics, production in 1953 – 1975, designed by Kaj Franck

In the center: service „Kilta“, glazed ceramics, production in 1953 – 1975, designed by Kaj Franck

The person looked at the plates and cups inside, slightly leaning against the glass that was separating him from the objects. Why was he so attentively watching them? The longer I observed the visitor observing the tableware and the distant space between them, the more I started to think the glass vitrine away and imagined him having a real physical experience with one of the cups instead: the two being naturally rejoined, exchanging what is deep inside.

‘He holds the cup that is filled with tea, leads it towards his mouth and drinks from it. The content flows in one direction which is his interior. Luxoriously he sucks the liquid inside and the cup seems to be very willing to feed him.

“The cup is the drone of the ceramics world, perhaps the hardest working of vessels and the least appreciated. In the grandest of tea or coffee services, the cup is usually the most underdesigned object, playing the role of subservient pawn to the teapot’s queen.“ (Garth Clark, „The Book of Cups, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990, p. 17)

He drinks everything of it until it is empty. But it still contains the warmth of the hot drink, as he inserts his finger he can feel it. For a short moment they contain the same warmth, the cup and him: he contains the warm tea and the cup the rest of warmth of the tea.

„Close space! Close the kangaroo’s pouch! It’s warm in there.“ (Le Temps de la poésie, G.L.M. July 1948, p.32)

cup, Service "Kilta", designed by Kaj Franck

Service “Kilta”, designed by Kaj Franck

He shouts into the cup and holds it close to his ear: he hears a distant echo. The echo vibrates a few times and is gone. He holds it close to his breast and feels that it is vibrating synchronously to his heartbeat.

„When we evaluate everyday objects, we should place more emphasis than we usually do on ergonomic quality and tactile sensibility“ (Kaj Franck, 1978)

He fills it with tea, looks at it and it is roundly opened as if it was calling him. He lifts it towards his mouth and his lips connect to the cup. They softly touch and his tongue reaches the wet content. Then the kiss becomes wild.

„Many a slip twixt cup and lip“ (Garth Clark, „The Book of Cups“, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990)

service „Kilta“, designed by Kaj Franck

Service „Kilta“, designed by Kaj Franck

After finishing he cleans the cup. The cup is very deep, so it is hard for him to reach the ground. He cleans and dries it with care and attention, outside and inside. That makes the cup shine and renews its promissing interior.

„A house that shines from the care it receives appears to have been rebuilt from the inside.“ (Gaston Bachelard, „The Poetics of Space“, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994, p.68)

Afterward him and the cup are cold and empty. He looks around and decides to continue drinking from it: what comes out is sweet. He feels a strange feeling that is increasing and expanding inside of him. It tickles him in an unknown place and he bursts into tears.

„Moreover the cup does not have any immediate sense of drama (…). But that does not mean the drama is absent, rather that we need to examine the cup a little more closely and consciously to discover its sense of domestic theater“ (The Book of Cups, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990 p. 19)

     "Venus von Willendorf", 1963, by Otto Piene, oil and soot on canvas

“Venus von Willendorf”, 1963, by Otto Piene, oil and soot on canvas

His tears keep on falling inside the cup. It takes more or less three seconds for the first teardrop to reach the ground, the noise sounds far. When the cup is filled with tears he is still crying. He looks inside and sees his face inbetween reflections of light.

„My cup runneth over“ („The Bible“, Psalm 23:, Ezekiel 34:11-24; John 10:1-21)

Suddenly he grabs the cup and throws it against the wall…’

service „Kilta"

service „Kilta”

„A kind of cosmic anguish precedes the storm. Then the wind starts to howl at the top of its lungs. Soon the entire menagerie of the hurricane lifts its voice.“ (Gaston Bachelard, „The Poetics of Space“, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994, p. 44)

As I awake from my daydream, the visitor of the Stedelijk Museum is gone, leaving no trace of evidence for what in different circumstances might have happened between him and Kaj Francks „Kilta Services“.

 

Wimble click crumblechaw beloo


Thursday, September 15, 2016

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Umberto Eco in his Six Walks in The Fictional Woods is referring to the idea of an optical illusion, for explaining how we are perceiving the fictional novels. Throughout his essay we are being shown, several illustrations with which he is visualizing the concept behind his es- say. Although it is not a children’s book, he is adding the illustration for the means of having a common understanding on the topic he is referring to and the concepts he is presenting.
While in children’s books, unfortunately, the freedom of the child using his fantasy is taken away, by – and thus imposing the fantasy of – one or more grownups, directing them in what they must see and understand as to have a common memory. I will come back on this subject later.
In Eco’s book though it is necessary to have the same understanding of the concept he is proposing. He is pointing his finger, saying “this is what I mean and not other”. Being able to maintain a certain common understanding, while using words, either in speech or writing is very difficult, as De Certeau is pointing it out in The Practice of Everyday Life:

“The readable transforms itself into the memorable: Barthes reads Proust in Stendhal’s text; the viewer reads the landscape of his childhood in the evening news.”

 

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Simply because we have agreed that, say: cup is a cup it does not mean that we are talking about the same subject/object. Each of us are having a specific memory of the word, being related to either the time we have learned it first, space, surrounding, atmosphere, mate- rial, color, size or form, are additions to the experience we are relating the word to.
When we say the word cup we refer to all the cups from everyone’s memory, and to the only one cup we relate to personally, all the cups we have happened to see, and even the ones we do not yet know about.
Here I will make a short parenthesis for coming back to what I have said above, about the common memory of the children, whom have shared the same book in the past. Clearly there are a few objects in each generation (related to time) or cultures (related to place) we can think of, that are bringing a sudden nostalgia. Referring to one of these objects from our common memory, has the power to affirm and acknowledge the ground where one that stands facing the others. Thus sharing a specific memory of a specific object can be decisive for taking or not part of the group.

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Once this idea is settled there is no need for other words to explain ourselves. We now can trust each others understanding on a number of other discussions, that we do have similar experiences.
Let’s take the 90’s generation as example. We might have experienced objects as Tamaqotchi, Nokia Querty, Pokemon and Dexter’s laboratory even though we come from all different countries and cultures. Recently I have participated in a some similar talks in a few different settings about Tamaqochi. It seems that somehow the memory of this object, keeps reoccurring. There are exactly a few specific answers to the question: “Oh! And do you remember Tamagotchi?!” that represent the object at it’s best and everyone understand their meaning.With or without the additional -
annoyed : “Oooh! Noooo, please….(it was such a stupid game, it would always die during the class)” .
and the enthusiastic : “Yes Yes! (I actually had a few)!”.
Whether one remembers more the annoyance or the pleasure, in the end both sides know exactly what it all meant or felt like. Thus trough sharing a common reference point they are becoming ‘a group’. They can now feel closer by the fact that they have shared a common/similar experience. Trough sharing a common experience the ‘other’ becomes ‘we’. While the ones that did not share the experience have a harder time to relate to the word and the meaning it carries with it.
This of course is a simplistic example and as such I am here not discussing the importance of sharing the idea of the Tamagotchi persé as an object/name, or as an experience, but replace it with something of a bigger importance – and that is where we, although having developed language to be able to transmit thoughts, can not get over the struggles of truthfully understanding their meaning and in some cases we overlook their importance by not being able to relate to other people’s experiences only trough words.

 

Cover_shaded download this thesis by Andreea Peterfi
all rights to this thesis are property of the author © 2016

 


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