Inspired by his grandmother’s disintegrating memories as she struggled with Alzheimer’s, Finnish designer Tuomas Markunpoika created his Engineering Temporality collection as a reflection of the fragility of memory and its loss.”Her Alzheimer’s disease is unravelling the fabric of her life, knot by knot, and vaporizing the very core of her personality and life, her memories, and turning her into a shell of a human being” said Markunpoika. By covering pieces of wooden furniture in a web of welded steel rings before destroying them with fire, he has created objects which have a nebulous connection with the original but appear hazy and blurry. They symbolically reveal the vanishing of memory by referring to the past.
Burning the wooden frame of the cabinet leaves the welded steel rings in its place, symbolically burning the original ‘memory’. Markunpoika presented this collection as his graduation project at the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2012.
“The use of language in Western contemporary culture implies that memories are often conceived as possessions: we ‘keep’ memories alive or ‘preserve’ them, as if our memories were materialised objects. These objects become mementos and our personal possessions which we are responsible for. When objects impregnated with memories are created, they become precious and irreplaceable because of the transference of memories into that object” says Markunpoika.
“I felt the urge to connect design to the human emotional sphere and to values that reflect how we are as human beings, by trying to create a bridge between the metaphysical and the material world using design as a medium of expression”. The relationship between viewer and object is strong and the emotional impact profound. The rich dialogue and emotional exchange creates layers of experience. The objects remain functional.
Another graduate of Eindhoven, Maarten Baas, produced his ‘Smoke’ series for his graduation show in 2002, using fire as a process, but with a very different meaning. Baas charred furniture with a blow torch, then treated the skeletons with a resin coating turning them into usable pieces of furniture again.
Murray Moss showed his work in a solo show in New York in 2004, using design pieces by Rietveld, Eames, Gaudi and Sottsass.
“The only important thing about design is how it relates to people”, Victor Papanek (Vienna 1923-1998 Kansas).
An Austrian-American designer and educator who created product designs for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), he was educated in England at Rugby before emigrating to the US where he studied design and architecture. He worked with Frank Lloyd Wright in 1949, earned his Bachelor’s degree at the Cooper Union in New York (1950) and did graduate studies in design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Victor J Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts in Vienna seeks to advance the understanding of design from the perspective of social responsibility.
If you plan to be in Paris in the next few months, the’Deboutonner la Mode’ exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs (10 Feb – 19 July) is well worth a visit. The collection of buttons is spectacular and the creativity and attention to detail of the designers inspiring.
Charles Boutet de Monvel, Paris c 1900. Metal and pearl.
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