Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thinking about Furnitures

I am gearing up to move flats for the third time this year which will see me transitioning into a smaller apartment block in the city. Because of this, I have become obsessed with small space solutions and furniture. I also understand that these sorts of obsessions are best directed towards my art practice before I become a crazy furniture hoarder and start dreaming in all things particleboard.

Thus, upon my research, I came across this post which outlines 19 space saving furniture concepts for making the most out of a tiny apartment space. The overwhelming consensus on this list is that to save space, things must turn into other things (barring the bed which is stored against the ceiling, although that too turns into an optional lighting system for your open plan loft apartment...). Also, the things that these things turn into would either be other furniture, or art. The above picture shows a concept which would turn four cushions and a coffee table into a fantastic 'contemporary piece of art' whereby you can even choose the colours of each individual piece. This made me wonder whether the 'artist' is the person choosing or the original designer?

But it also got me thinking about my own exploration of objects and their performative functions. While I'm interested in the point at which an object has the potential to be perceived as something else, such as an anthropomorphic body, essentially I am doing the same as these transformative furniture concepts; turning things into other things, or at least laying open the potentials of a thing being another thing...

But perhaps the difference between my practice and a piece of space saving furniture lies in the allowance of an object to be both one thing and another at the same time. A dining table cannot be used as both a dining table while someone is playing billiards on it (see no. 4 on the list) and a bunch of chairs cannot exist as both a chair and a table, you are instead made to choose one function or the other during one usage (see above).

Within my own practice however, I am aware that I am only really interested in objects which do not deny what they are even when they are transformed into something else. A plastic sheet is still a plastic sheet even when it exercising a performative value. However, I am also allowed this luxury because often the range of transformations exist purely in the viewer's change of perception, not in physical space.

I remember reading Jeremy Millar's book on Der Lauf der Dinge (an art piece which seems to come up a lot on this blog...) and his theory on an object and its level of automatism. An object only had the ability to be performatively adaptable when it had a lesser degree of automatism eg. a table or a chair in comparison to a iphone 4 which is programmed to be more automatic/have more automatism. But what is interesting in the inflexibility of these supposed flexible space saving options is that they only have the options given to you by the designer. Even though they pass themselves off as a chair or a table, they still have more automatism then a standalone chair or table due to their design being programmed to work and transform a specific way. Which also makes me wonder the irony in how much space one is actually saving when they need to purchase a chair to use for their table which folds into chairs, and the trouble one must go to if they want to sit down eg. 3+ minutes of unfolding a chinese screen (see no. 17)

Below is my favourite of the 19, which requires you to build your own furniture. I have always compared IKEA to lego for adults, but this takes it one more step. This particular concept also probably has the least amount of automatism out of the list.

And a video I came across which is close to my heart, having been born in Hong Kong and knowing that fitting a family of 5+ into a 600 square metre apartment is very normal.

- Agnes

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