SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] Why "design" mak
Re: [Sigia-l] Why "design" makes some of us cringe.
From: Andrew Hinton (andrew_at_memekitchen.com)
Date: Mon Jul 22 2002 - 14:28:15 EDT
::hippiefunk_at_hotmail.com::wrote on 7/22/02 01:24pm:
> For example many of the Eames'
> chairs are considered art. Why? It's a chair. The problem being solved
> is for sitting, right? But these chairs were never intended to be sold,
> or used. Their intent is to decorate and at most inspire. Most of these
> chairs no one would even want to sit in, so in essence we would call it
> "bad design" but beautiful art, no?
Many art museums and critics also critique and display products designed for
use, or celebrate them as form (normally in context of their intended use).
So much of this delves into sticky issues of authorial intention, which
would be very non-post-structuralist of us. Oy!
What makes art so much fun is how all these things rub against each other.
Warhol's soup can is a beautiful form partly because of its being a soup
can, because of the irony mixed with the earnestness with which it is
rendered as a work of art -- the ideas and emotions of the culture around it
have as much to do with its artfulness as the object itself.
But this is true of any art, to some degree.
I fully believe that any chair the Eames's intended to be a comfortable
chair was indeed a comfortable chair. For others, this question is beside
Keep in mind, too, that they also created a great deal of furniture for
real, actual use: most of their bent-plywood, aluminum & fiberglass chairs,
were intended to be beautiful, comfortable mass-produced seating for anyone
(sort of a pre-Target design-for-the-masses concept). Not the most
comfortable available, but the most comfort and style for the cost (and
relatively quite comfortable and easy to move around, stack, etc especially
for the 50's and 60's). Very practical, egalitarian goals. Ironically, we
now see them in museums and auctions for thousands of dollars.
I'm not aware of any Eames furniture, in fact, that was for Art's sake, but
I'm not an expert. I grew up sitting in Eames chairs or knockoffs in many
waiting rooms and cafeterias as a kid, and they were always pretty nice.
(Here's a list of some of the designs offered at one retailer:
<http://www.mancha.demon.co.uk/eames.html>) In fact, the American Heritage
dictionary defines "Eames Chair" as something designed very much with
function and comfort in mind:
"A trademark used for a functional chair, originally of molded plywood, with
seat and back pieces shaped to the contours of the human body."
I know I've seen other "furniture" that's more art than design, some more
sittable than others. But there's no escaping that all art/design is a
mishmash that really has more to do with context than anything else. Put a
toilet in a bathroom, and it's a toilet. Put it in a museum and it's
sculpture. I'm not denigrating this idea, by the way... I have a lot of
respect for it. It's how art works in a given culture.
(Anyone seen "The Gods Must Be Crazy"? A Coke bottle is a beautiful object
andrew hinton <http://www.memekitchen.com/>
andrew [at] memekitchen.com
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