Tuesday, December 2, 2014

reinventing the chair

"Ikea Jumps on Retro Furniture Trend by Reissuing Its Own Designs", notes Slate blogger.

"Midcentury modern and Scandinavian furniture designs seem as ubiquitous, relevant, and on trend as they did in the middle of the 20th century, and even more so as our gadgets get more futuristic and our interiors have gone decidedly retro (helped along no doubt by a glamorous boost from the Mad Men effect). Now under the guise of celebrating 70 years in business, Ikea has launched the limited-edition Argang collection, 26 reissued designs from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s that include furniture, lighting, textiles, and tableware from its archives (available only in select Ikea stores).... Ikea dipped its toes into its archive last year when it reissued the 1955 Lovet table, the piece that launched its flat-pack modus operandi that helped make them the home furnishings monolith that they are today."

This reminded me of the ICA launch for Retromania back in June 2011, when there was panel discussion and audience Q/A. A woman in the audience took great exception to the thesis of the book, which she took to be that nobody was doing anything innovative at all, anywhere.  Now, during the panel discussion, I had put across the idea -- sort of devil's advocate defence / apology for retro - that rock 'n' roll was like the chair.  It had been developed to do a certain job, and the right sort of shape for a chair had been more or less settled, and there was only so far you could push before it became not very good at its job, i.e. being something to sit on. You could have an avant-garde chair, but it would be too uncomfortable to sit on. (C.f. the "discomfort food" of Futurist cuisine, e.g. pasta made of glass). Same perhaps with rock - it did one or two things, and if you pushed it much outside its comfort zone, it no longer functioned.

Anyway, as the kicker to her mini-rant against me and Retromania, this woman said, as proof of the continuing vitality of the spirit of innovation, "You talk about chairs... well, I know some people who are exploring ways of growing chairs."  I was so blindsided by her attack that I didn't think to enquire more about these people and how on earth one would go about growing a chair. (Or indeed why one would do that, given that IKEA exists).

I sort of imagine it as a Day of the Triffids-like scenario -- ecologically-minded scientists genetically modify trees that, instead of growing branches, extrude items of household furniture. But then it all goes wrong...

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