Construction, Destruction & Documentation – Two Tables
(continued on from ‘CONSTRUCTION DESTRUCTION AND DOCUMENTATION’)
CONSTRUCTION VS. DESTRUCTION
Imagine going to an ATM taking out $50 dollars with the intention that you where going to fold the note into a boat and place it into a river to watch float away.
Then imagine instead that you go to the same ATM and take out $600 to burn to generate a small amount of heat and light.
Take it even further and use the $600 to buy a trailer or two of firewood, to burn and disintegrate to produce light and heat. Imagine again that you go to the ATM take out your $600 dollars and instead of buying fire wood you go to a furniture grade timber supplier and buy $600 worth of premium grade timber that has gone through a whole range of stages to get it to its current moisture level. Your $600 dollars won’t fill one trailer, in fact it only affords 18 meters of timber, which you proceed to put through a wood chipper and spread the wood chips on a garden bed. Although the chips are $600 of value, not many would recognise it.
Imagine instead of chipping your 18 meters of timber valued at $600, you decide to design and manufacture two bespoke tables. After the 40hrs of developing, designing, planning, acquiring stock, machining timber, cutting joinery, refining assembly, sanding, application of finishes, you have sore hands, a sense of accomplishment and two highly finished objects ready for use. I think that we could all agree that the tables are now worth significantly more than the value of material alone and the cost would now be better described through the qualitative measures of time and emotion.
Of course it is this exact moment where things are about to get tricky because I decide I would like these two pieces of furniture to take a radical step away from their predictable futures. I wonder, what if, instead of sending these tables off for a life measured in family conversations over long Sunday lunches.
The tables will act instead as a projection of my own ideals and have in them the beginnings of a good story, in which I hope will be continued, not with care but with enjoyment and the full embrace of the table’s function. Subsequent to which its damage will be continued, not as damage but as signs of its life and the interactions of its users.
What drives you to seek to destroy the surface of the tables, not to dysfunction but to radically undo the transformation from plank to table? Is it the desire to continue to interact with the material? To transform it further, from one state to another. What would this process do to the aesthetic quality of the highly designed object? Has it become in fact aesthetically dysfunctional? What is the point? Or more importantly what is the question? I would like you to consider the difference between destruction and construction and how through conditioning of the two words and definitions we have a perception of where each fits. For example; the construction of a folded boat is the destruction of a $50 note, or the destruction of $600 is the construction of light and heat or the destruction of dark and cold. The destruction of trees is the construction of wood for fire or furniture and the destruction of fire wood is heat and light which in turn destroys the ozone layer as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are released etc.
To identify the transformation of raw material as a destructive process is entirely subjective; its variables in material, product and function are all components that should be taken into account. However in a majority of cases the materials ascension into product is an irreversible process, making the transition a destruction of its original format. Therefore we should be more selective of the products we purchase and where possible own them and embrace them for a lifetime, rejecting a throw away mentality with that of more environmentally conscious one.
Emotionally we react to the destruction more than the construction as it involves in these cases flippant and wasteful use of quantities of money. While the construction the positive will disassociate itself with the destruction and the commodity in which it is made, is redundant the product is pure. If we could communicate the history of product through its visual design, then it might make the consumer conscious of how it came to be and subsequently its value should be identified in its consumption of precious resources, which includes time, knowledge and skills.
Story and narrative might be the most under considered component of a modern product in today’s society. While there is a lot of value for products that fit under the guise of ‘antique’ and the identification of its history is a result of its longevity, ‘new’ products are sold without story and in fact it is often a goal to conceal a products function and assembly within minimalist aesthetics. However it should be something that designers pursue in all avenues of design, much like artists do in the making of artworks, in which credibility is found in contextualisation.
If it is not the designer/creator who embodies context or narrative into the product then the responsibility falls onto the user. I personally am saddened by the products which tell one single story and that is of a lifetime of care, to maintain its “new” state. What might sadden me even more are products that are placed a category like ‘shabby chic’ in which new products are made to look old through manufacturing techniques which aim to replicate a tarnished look, “new antiques”.
More interesting yet is this instinctive urgency to buy protection for valued objects, whether it be a physical protection like an mobile phone case or peace of mind protection like car insurance, these new things straight out of the assembly line are all identical and come as new objects. These brand new flawless products are treated preciously and we try to maintain their ‘new’ state for as long as possible. Try as we all do, inevitably accidents happen through general use and scratches, dings, wear and tear happen. The product still functions as it should, however these new marks from use will devalue the object in most minds.
‘I think it is experience and personal preference, some people just love new things, but the imperative here is sustainability, we have limited resources on our planet and our culture needs to embrace aesthetic choices to support it. Design plays a part in this process.’ MIA CHING.
Why is it that we don’t value these marks, cherish them as reminders of a history shared by the user and the object. The transition from new to unique should be embraced as the evidence of value and most of all, its story.
So why destroy the functioning surface of two brand new tables? For a few reasons, these being, to create an instant story that will be etched into the top of each table, which could either be describes as graffiti, vandalism or both.
Secondly it makes the product unique each table will be affected by its own journey and resembles its own experience.
In conclusion, I urge you the consumer, the maker and the designer to consider the function of a product and how it affects the way you live, and more importantly buy, make and design to the highest quality, so that products can be used without protection, while achieving their function. Lastly, I urge you to see value in the maker’s mark, the impure, the warped, the tarnished, that which is marked by time. It’s time to revaluate and seek to understand the misunderstood.
‘Once I discovered how much fun it was to become active in the process of making, maintaining, and modifying the things I use and consume everyday, the little flaws, quirks, and imperfections in my handiwork stopped becoming shameful and instead felt like badges of honor.’ A. C. BENSON.