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The beauty of the brush hanger – contemporary design at the Somewhat different exhibition

When is a chair a chair? When it is used for sitting on, obviously! Yet there can be more to a chair. If you put glasses on it, it becomes a table. And if you stand on it to reach something on the top shelf, then you are using it like a ladder. This is precisely the starting point of the exhibition Somewhat different in Jakarta.



Utility items as works of art


According to another principle, if the chair is merely being observed, then it is either a broken chair or a work of art. The capacity of an object to be transformed from everyday status to that of art was demonstrated nearly a hundred years ago in French artist Marcel Duchamp’s famous piece entitled Fountain. Duchamp simply took a newly manufactured urinal, signed it and declared it at the museum to be a work of art. Consequently, the object lost its original reason for existence, i.e. its function. Time and again, the exponents of different disciplines – design and art – have tried to reach agreement on the specific function and definition of an object and thus stake out their own territory. However, as the exhibition at the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) in Jakarta demonstrates, this is no easy task. The exhibition is entitled ‘Somewhat different. Contemporary design and the power of convention.’

Plant pot doorstops and brush hangers


One of the 150 or so objects that make up the exhibition is made entirely of plastic and can be used for different purposes: a plant pot doorstop. It is white, resembles a pot and has a deep groove in the side that can accommodate a door edge almost perfectly – if it wishes. If not, the object can fall back on its other talent, that of being a plant pot. It can therefore switch quite confidently between doorstop and plant pot. Another example is the cross between a brush and a clothes hanger to produce a brush hanger! Many of the objects in the exhibition embody this two-in-one principle, although many design objects are of doubtful utility and appear to be more of a sculpture or a picture derived from mere wordplay. Take the ‘Nail brush’, for example – a brush with an outsize nail for a handle. Even a humorous play on words can take material form.

Sometimes more really is more


The exhibition catalogue contains some well-researched background articles and offers an eclectic insight into the history of materials and technology that includes the origins of the Rimowa suitcase with its characteristic grooves, now a design classic. Based in Cologne, the German luggage maker Rimowa had to deal with a shortage of materials during World War II. After the warehouse was bombed, all that was left was a stock of aluminium. The company decided to shift production, and the result was one of the lightest and most robust suitcases ever made.

The exhibition ‘Somewhat different’ covers many interesting design principles, with utility value taking second place to the experimental use of materials and haptic aesthetics. The designers have opted for new concepts such as function shifting, satirisation and the individualisation of objects. Sometimes they even refuse any possible application for their creations and thus transform their ‘everyday objects’ into works of art. Isn’t it quite understandable if they want to do something more – be an attractive household friend, embellish their surroundings, please the eye or just make people happy? So after all, more sometimes really is more.

Have you seen the exhibition? If so, can you tell others about it? Or have you seen another art exhibition recently or visited an art museum? If you would like to share your impressions with other alumni, we’d like to invite you to join our discussions in the community group entitled KULTUR – CULTURE.


August 2011

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Gilbert Banda
8 October 2011

Am artist for a long time since childhood. I do drawings, and a little bit of painting, and also craft. I do alot of drawings because i love monochrome and i thought i should my own identity and my own touch. I've done a number of works from portraits, animal art, nature that dipicts more african senary. As an artist who is not yet known or oxposed, i do face many challenges in my art career, and i've really fought tooth and nail to make i expose myself but it's an easy thing to do here in Zambia. When i finished my high school in 2001 i decided to enter for Art and English Diploma because i wanted to learn more and have the methodology of teaching art so that i also help and contribute more to the young up coming artists in the world. But things didnt went well at collage i stopped because ran out of tuition fees to finish my course. Up to now i cant manage to go back to collage, i cant raise enough money because there is no market were i can sale my artwoks. I am happy that i've connected myself to this alumniportal to seek advise and help.Please i really need your advise and your help for me achieve my dreams as an artist so that i can inculcate my new ideas to the young upcoming artist.

Gilbert Banda
8 October 2011

Hi, yes i've seen the exhibition before because iam a visual artist and have exhibited before in my country. Well an art exhibition is when different artist meet at certain place to show case their artworks. This is done in an open place were inflax of people flock there to view different works of the artists who have exhibited. Art exhibition also brings exchange of culture and also it brings people back to nature. Then artist will also have the opportunity to sale their pieces to the people. Am 28 years of age and i live in Zambia.

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