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"design alienation" Tag

Fundamental Neglect

Saturday, February 17, 2018

When you visit the exhibition “Stedelijk Base” in the Stedelijk Museum, in the basement of the museum you will find the following industrial design-related object: “VALENTINE S” by Ettore Sottsass and Perry King. What you see is a red typewriter from 1969. The typewriter is combined with a plastic bag, so that it can be transported. The design object is presented in a glass display case surrounded by artwork from the Pop Art period.
I wondered whether the context in which the object is presented does justice to the object, or whether the museum presented clichés.
But this question is not the question that occupied me the most. The following question has been keeping me busy for a while, which is why I use this blog to deepen my knowledge of the question: “How should a design object be presented?”, In order not to get lost in all possible solutions, I keep myself the above mentioned object; “VALENTINE S”.

As I type this, I do not know if I will find an answer at all. Perhaps the goal is to make the viewer aware of what he / she sees, especially : question what you see, critically.
To find an answer to this question, I want to start with a work of art that hangs close to “VALENTINE S”, namely “AS I OPENED FIRE” by Roy Lichtenstein from 1964.




Both objects come from the seventies, both objects have  a Pop-Art character, both objects are in the flashing Pop Art colours, but the objects are completely different in intention. Lichtenstein’s painting is categorized by the Stedelijk Museum as a “painting”, thus a work of art. The typewriter is categorized as “industrial design”, thus a design object. This difference between design and art is already a difference of intention, you can therefore wonder how convincing it is to delve further into this, but I want to delve into another difference in intention: the painting is presented in the exhibition as Lichtenstein  would have liked it to be presented, as he intended and as many paintings are presented, namely; hanging on the wall. A distance is created between the creation and the spectator. In contrast to the painting, the typewriter is presented in a glass display case, this display case is attached to the wall, here too distance is created, but this distance can be questioned critically, because in an interview Sottsass said the following about his typewriter: “this was a machine that was designed to keep the poets company on lonely weekends in the country. ”

From this I get that the typewriter is more than an inanimate object, it is an object that offers company, it becomes part of your life, the distance between object and consumer is blurred.  The typewriter is now alone and will only be presented without any context. Locked in a glass box, stripped and alienated from his function and objectified to an object to watch, the distance between object and consumer (=now the viewer) is tightened. This is what I call “fundamental neglect”.

Of course, when you stand in front of the machine as a spectator, you can imagine what it would be like to travel with this typewriter under your arm and write stories. But an unpleasant distance has been created between the object and you.

The difference with the artwork of Lichtenstein is that the distance is fundamental to the painting, whether you want it or not, that is because it is not massively produced as the typewriter, the painting is thus less intrigued into daily life.

I want to explain the concept of “fundamental neglect” further. The problem I mentioned above does not play between spectator and creation, but it is a mistake, a miscommunication between the intention of the maker and the “presentation-ideas” of the museum. A miscommunication that leads to questions for the (critical) spectator.

The answer to this problem is somehow mentioned back in the text. I described above that the typewriter requires more interaction between the viewer and the object (= the typewriter), but this interaction is disturbed by the glass box. The intention of Sottsass was that the object had to be integrated into daily life, so we have to get rid of the locking up of objects in showcases, this ensures that you understand the object better.
I do not have everything in showcases at home! Because of this,  I am not alienated from my own stuff!

The next step is more radical; we must have the opportunity to touch the object, really feel it and get lost in it. As a counter argument you can say that it is a bad idea because it can break. Nevertheless, I think that the “breaking” of design objects, in many cases, is part of the creator’s intention. Sottsass described that it must be integrated into daily life, and objects can be destroyed in daily life.

If the designer does not want his object to be destroyed, he must indeed put it in a display case, but that does change the intention and when the intention changes, the whole object changes, is it still a design-object used into daily life?

Show balls Stedelijk Museum, display the objects naked.

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