Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lassú Chair

In 1974, while editor of Italian design magazine Casabella, Alessandro Mendini set fire to a chair. The photograph of the resulting conflagration graced the front cover of the magazine. Mendini's ritual destruction of his own design can be read in various ways: as a comment on the ephemeral nature of architecture, as an example of design as media performance and as a personal comment on destruction and mortality.
What's clear is that Mendini's act was one of the very few examples in design where the demise of the object was intrinsic to its meaning. It is a fitting way to end this lament because Postmodernism was a movement that always acknowledged its own temporality and was obsessed by ruins, fragments and remains. Despite its claims to popularity and a shiny commercialism, Postmodernism was actually morbidly obsessed with the dead and (nearly) buried remains of architecture and culture. This is actually one of the most interesting things about it.
Contrary to popular misconception, materiality was very important to it. It's just that it also acknowledged the alchemical process by which that materiality gains cultural meaning, as well as how that meaning changes over time. Sometimes it disappears altogether. And in disappearing, it gains another, perhaps more permanent kind of meaning.
Charles Holland