Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Inscrutability of Chairs (and Other Mysteries)

It all begins with
Alan Watts. He is the man often credited with helping to bring Eastern philosophy into the Western consciousness. His critics accused him of trying to demystify mystical experience. How so? By writing about it. In particular, for writing things like this:
The task and delight of [art] is to say what cannot be said, to eff the ineffable, and to unscrew the inscrutable.

"To eff the ineffable": Possibly the best description of the raw power of art ever. On the other hand, those who make attempts at unraveling the mysteries better be prepared for resistance. As one critic put it:
Watts' mysticism is deviant because it seeks perversely to undo mystical experience.
What's so perverse about trying to look under the veil?

Take the chair: What is a chair? When is a chair not a chair? What is the language of chair-ness? It's not that the answers even matter, it's the adventure in the asking that inspires both designer and user.

The chair as light processor.

The Queen Anne chair, modernized: Beech wood, leather upholstery with silver finish.

The chair's DNA is not only of its royal pedigree but of the royal class's obsession with grand furniture design. Brought to the 21st century with two parts Bauhaus with one part Jazz Age brothel, maybe? The intermingling brings a wonderful tension between high elegance and low vulgarity in its gild-like finish and the square fluted edging.

Above, a variation on the Queen Anne theme, streamlined.

A version of the stiletto strappy sandal in chair form or as it's otherwise known: The Cord Chair by Nendo. Its construction is maple hollowed out with a metal core for strength. Learn more here.

Yet another version of the venerable Queen Ann, below, only in this Lucite version even less so.

Teachers tell pupils learning to write to
spell brave, i.e. to attempt to spell a word regardless that they may get it wrong. For a designer this might be called designing brave. Risking failure to endeavor to learn. The courage is in the attempt, not the execution.

A brave chair as a kind of inverted Minotaur in inviting embrace.

Below, another chair even less so again: The Invisible Chair
by Tokujin Yoshioka for Kartell.

And to finish, the lawn chair. Literally.

No comments:

Post a Comment