By High Cotton.
Archive for the ‘humour’ Category
Don’t you want me, baby?
Ad by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion.
Noel Gallagher by photographer ©Andy Willsher, reprinted with permission
Rolling Stone: Did you see that [Arcade Fire has] asked people to wear formal wear or costumes at their shows? [Ed. Note: Arcade Fire has clarified that this dress code is "super not mandatory."]
Noel Gallagher: [Sighs] Well, what’s the point of that? Do you know what the point of that is? That is to take away from the shit disco that’s coming out of the speakers. Because everybody’s dressed as one of the Three Musketeers on acid. “What was the gig like?” “I don’t know, everyone was dressed as a teddy bear in the Seventies.” “Yeah, but what was the gig like?” “Ah, fuck knows, man, I have no idea. I was dressed as a flying saucer.” “Yeah, but what was the gig like?” “Fuck knows. I don’t know. Seen Cheech and Chong, there, though.”
Russell Baker, Allahppliqué, 2013
Pine, paint, tape, cushion, hockey sticks, pom-poms, leather, fabric. 1 of 1.
I ended up buying this chair at the auction I wrote about previously. I had no intention of buying anything nor any budget to buy but that is why they serve you champagne at auctions. Though I guess if I’d thought about it the chances of leaving without this chair were always going to be small. The proceeds go toward building a new Presentation House Gallery in Vancouver.
I know Russell as a fellow designer. Like me, he comes from a visual arts background. He himself makes chairs (and other furniture) and is also a writer and art critic. His company, Bombast Furniture, is named for the cotton stuffing inside upholstery. The street meaning of “bombast” does not apply to his furniture, though, which is not loud and which is carefully designed and constructured to last at least 100 years.
There is humour in Allahppliqué but of course that doesn’t make it frivolous. I could talk about this piece at length but instead I will let Russell do it. Below is the text he wrote to accompany the chair. It stands as a statement about design in general, and I love it for its re-statement of the original critical or revolutionary impetus in Italian design.
Allahppliqué: Toward a Radical Bricologic
It was while I was sitting in front of the Hermes boutique in Terminal 4, Heathrow, when transiting from Tangier (aka the Interzone) to Vancouver, that I first intuited that Enzo Mari, the man who famously called Rem Koolhaas a “pornographic window dresser” to his face—it was while sitting in front of the Hermes boutique that I realized Enzo might never have heard of Dina, the greatest living belly dancer in the Arab world. How this (merely probable) fact might relate to my project, I was at that time unsure. (How does one account for solitudes of this nature?) When I subsequently passed the Hermes boutique at YVR upon my return home, I had a better idea of how, precisely, the Enzo Mari/Dina axis (as I now refer to it privately) related to my project.
To back up a few steps—and for the purposes of clarity—I should add that before my departure for the Interzone I had been invited to participate in a fundraiser auction for Presentation House Gallery. The Gallery had offered me an Enzo Mari “Sedia” chair and invited me to do whatever I wanted to the chair. Upon completion, my manipulated version of “Sedia” would be offered at auction to supporters of the gallery in a relatively standard dinner-format fundraiser.
The “Sedia” is of course the most famous manifestation of Mari’s legendary DIY project (“Autoprogettazione”) from 1974. “Sedia” is a form rich in associations, and has been variously interpreted; it has been read as a gesture of disgust, as an offer of freedom, as a shot over the bow of the good ship consumerism from “the critical conscience of Italian design.” It is also, now, repackaged and delivered in a ready to assemble (RTA) format, something different than it once was.
My challenge, as I understood it, was to reinvigorate or reactivate the revolutionary potential lurking beneath various layers of historical accretion that had attached to the “Sedia” since its original appearance. As Mari has himself observed, the chair found its way very quickly into the arena of pure kitsch — was assimilated almost immediately into the marketplace as an (admittedly exemplary) manifestation of the decorative category “rusticity”. How then to reactivate a revolutionary object that had, by its creators own admission, enjoyed such a fleeting moment of relative power uncontaminated by market forces? To put it more simply, how was I to save “Sedia” from becoming just another signifier of belonging for an ever-growing group of puritanical internationalist consumers whose apparent appreciation of “simplicity” so perfectly paralleled an earlier generation’s drive toward “rusticity” (cf. Terence Conran, terra cotta, balsamic vinegar, Jennifer Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous). No small challenge indeed!
To understand the “Dina Thing” (by which I mean my unconscious concatenation of Hermes, Enzo Mari, and Dina) you would have to have had the experience of being shadowed by CIA operatives in Cairo, just before the so-called Arab Spring; to be innocently enjoying a belly dance extravaganza, at four in the morning, in a night club that seemed the perfect meeting place for secret agents, crooks, fellow travelling fruits and gamblers — a veritable Eldorado for the fun-loving but decidedly dishevelled Gulf State “Haute Volée.” (Boy can they drink!)
Such was the experiential ground of the symbolic fusion that linked Hermes, Enzo Mari and Dina in my mind. For it was upon identifying the CIA operative in that bar, and realizing that his reason for being there was me, that I came to a rather concrete understanding of the new geopolitical realities. (It didn’t make me feel safer.) That I had somehow been mistaken for a “person of interest” in the most serious of international conflicts in our time for simply expressing a passing interest in the Islamic world (how else can I characterize my interest in Dina?) was food for thought. Could the dominant world order (symbolized here synecdochically by the “global” brand Hermes), be so fragile that my peripatetic, merely touristic wanderings through the Islamic borderlands actually attracted official attention? If this were so, might there be in this fact a clue as to how to reactivate “Sedia”?
What I was looking for was a recipe for (market) unassimilability that yet might somehow simultaneously invite a higher union. Was such a thing even possible?
—Tangier, Morocco. October, 2013
Enzo Mari’s classic 1970s chair modified by artists and designers – Presentation House Gallery auctionFriday, November 15th, 2013
Vancouver’s Presentation House Gallery turns 30 this year and will soon move to a beautiful new building designed by the eminent Vancouver firm Patkau Architects. To mark its birthday and raise money for the move, PHG is holding an innovative benefit auction in which major Vancouver artists and designers have been given a classic 1970s Enzo Mari Sedia 1 chair and asked to modify or reinterpret it. See the full list of artists and works on the auction blog (just note that not all of the works have been delivered, so some of the entries don’t have photos yet). The auction is on Saturday, November 23, 2013. Tickets available by phone 604.986.1351. As of publication of this post I think there are a small number of tickets left.
Above is “68.3 chair” which is the original Mari chair sandblasted by noted Vancouver designer Omer Arbel, principal at Omer Arbel Office and creative director of Bocci. Presumably Arbel’s title refers to the percentage of the original chair left after sandblasting, by weight? Perhaps this is how the original chair would look had it been left to weather in desert winds since the 70s.
Below is an as yet untitled chair by Russell Baker, partner and principal designer for BOMBAST Furniture. I like many of the chairs in the auction but on balance I think this is the one I would bid on if I had the dough. It’s beautiful, and its atypical combination of emblems and identity markers is poignant in a way that is hard to put your finger on. I like that Russell also consulted a YouTube video on how to make pompoms so he could construct these by hand.
Above, Achilles by artist Elspeth Pratt and architect Javier Campos. The chair has been treated using a traditional Japanese method of preserving wood by turning its surface to charcoal using a torch. Architects Shigeru Ban and Terunobu Fujimori have used this ancient preservation method in their architecture. Using it here, however, renders the chair non-functional since the carbon seems likely to rub off on clothes. That is, the treatment effectively renders the chair a work of art or conceptual architecture, not furniture. (In fact though I am sure the surface has been treated in such a way that this wouldn’t happen.)
Above, Ian’s crates by artist Brian Jungen. Brian has famously worked with chairs before, his whale skeletons made from disassembled white plastic chairs. Here, however, he does not disassemble a Mari chair but actually copies one from an old art crate that once transported the work of fellow artist Ian Wallace. Clever play on the contrast between functionality and art, furniture and meaning, utility and transformation.
And below, SMPTE Colour Index Study Number 001, the Sedia 1 chair disassembled and reassembled in one plane and painted in video colour bar tones by Douglas Coupland. Who was, by the way, born in North Vancouver’s nearby Lion’s Gate Hospital, so PHG gallery is close to home for him. Another copy of the original chair is included in the photo by way of comparison.
Check back to the blog over the next week as more photos will appear.
OK, I don’t mind quotation, reference, homage and what have you. But let’s just point out that the 2013 song “The Fox,” also known as “What Does the Fox Say” by Norwegian comedy outfit Ylvis, pretty obviously owes a debt to the 2003 “Mod Wolves” sequence from UK comedy TV series The Mighty Boosh.
Homage for the most part doesn’t transcend the original and Ylvis is no different, but this is a pretty pale reflection of the original. Oh let’s call a spade a spade: it’s more ripoff than homage. Anyone who knows the Mighty Boosh can see that The Fox’s colour scheme, dance, and particular surrealism immediately suggest the Boosh’s Mod Wolves.
What Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding of the Boosh owe the greatest debt to, I don’t know, but when do they riff on the past it seems more creative homage than theft. They have been described as Sid and Marty Krofft as engineered by Frank Zappa which isn’t too far off the mark, but ultimately they’re original. Ylvis meanwhile is Mighty Boosh as engineered by some bros.
More Boosh songs here.