I recently came across a woman on one of my fortnightly visits into town, and we got chatting at one of these cafes that scream “Chrome and Glass”, and serve your drinks in hand-crafted, asymmetrical mugs! She swore to me that she would not be caught dead in one of those, independant, All-English-Oldly-Worldly styled Tea shops that were mushrooming everywhere, serving Cream Teas and “Home-Made”, like that was the Chef’s Special for the day! (Everyone talks to everyone in Norfolk! Just to clear the air about why I have so many random conversations with people I don’t personally know! We are neighbourly in this part of the world! :P) Did I mention that the diatribe was in response to me mentioning that given a chance, I’d patronise an independant coffee shop, not a chain – just in the interests of local economies, because we’re just those sort of people who care about those sort of things, not to mention my sister had an independant small business and got eaten alive by the big, corporatised chains….but, no agenda at all, really, just a coffee in an a nice coffee shop !! The lady liked to keep it progressive, no nostalgia, no emotional ornamentation! In her 40’s she swore by PSP’s, Hobbs and duo-zoned dishwashers! Traditional English Tea Rooms? Pffft, such Kitsch!!
Pardon me if this post seems very stream-of-consciousness!
Started me thinking that You are Never Too Removed from the Good Old Days ; not even if you swear by your iPhone, have your earbuds ergonomically nestled in your ears, or sport a quadri-tiled image in Photoshopped contrasting saturation as your social networking avatar! Certainly haven’t escaped if you secretly covet a bob or drool over Little Black Dresses!! You have been touched by the past – by Bauhaus, Warhol and Chanel! For all of us who sat on modular furniture in the 80’s and early 90’s and thought that ours was the age of light-framed modernism, it really originated in the ’20’s with Marcel Breuer ! Consider his B33 chair, hardly a design any of us have skipped in it’s lesser known reproductions , think clinics, government offices, and all the poor teachers who couldn’t ever put their legs up for fear of buckling over!! And that’s speaking from experience!! What made this iconic is its cantilevered seat, designed to specifically not be a showpiece (imagine this in an age that worshipped chintz and wadding), but to emphasise what metal could do, well used. It wasn’t ornamented or filigreed, but chromed to emphasize that it was metal, rather than wood. What a far cry from fake wood-grain panels on 1970’s station wagons! Whoever fell for that?!
Another malady of your early years being spent in the 80’s, is you thinking this is the ultra-modern home that spelled sophistication. And we claimed it as our own! To have and hold. The ’80’s ruled Black, Red and White!
Thinking back, we were only harking back to the 1930’s when this colour palette was considered bang en trend; being heatedly discussed at some of the biggest design establishments in the world!
Well, I think I’m on safe ground assuming that Apple touches all our little urban lives, either concretely or aspirationally! After Steve Jobs’ death, when the world and it’s wife spoke about the Apple phenomenon for months, I remember hearing designers talk about how the vision of the company was integrated – rather chip-on-motherboard’edly on honesty, integrity of materials, with design innovations rooted in problem solving! Couldn’t help be reminded of Mies van der Rohe and his own aesthetic approach a 100 years before that. I hardly stand here insinuating that one of the greatest innovators of our time was really a copycat; but that often, the Visionary and his vision cannot be wholly extricated from it’s inspiration! Jobs was indeed, massively influenced by the Bauhaus school of thought!
Going back to when I first recognized my own interest in design, it seems to point to when I was reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead . I was 17 and reading it to my father, who loved that and Atlas shrugged, but was too ill to read it himself. I had a good reading voice, he said! What stayed with me amidst all her capitalistic manifesto, was the protagonist Howard Roark deriding the Parthenon to his Dean at the Stanton Institute of Technology. “The famous flutings on the famous columns – what are they there for? To hide the joints in wood – when columns were made of wood, only these aren’t, they’re marble. The triglyphs, what are they? Wood. Wooden beams, the way they had to be laid when people began to build wooden shacks. Your Greeks took marble and they made copies of their wooden structures out of it, because others had done it that way. Then your masters of the Renaissance came along and made copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Now here we are, making copies in steel and concrete of copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood. Why?”
Is originality in itself a myth? Probably – since everything we are is a result of the intertextuality of our lives! A constant amalgam of nature and nurture and every single sense perception since our existence. Strange that we still continue to quest for individuality and most so as we come of age, and contraintuitively move in herds that wear the same names, hear the same sounds, pierce the same parts!
I think that paragraph, in part, gave me sanction to go out and embrace the fact that I was different, and live the small part of me that needed peer affiliation with dignity! Our lives, our aspirations are just the rebottled versions of the past; old is not gold but really where we full-circle to in one area or the other, whether consciously or not! For if I am destined to finally become my mother, and since high-rise hair and velvet bootcuts have made a comeback on the catwalk, there really must be some stock in Warhol’s everyone/everything having it’s 15 minutes of fame!
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