Depot Basel No.5: Seats
Much like those who doubted that the Stone Roses would ever get back together; there are also those who doubt we will ever make it to a Depot Basel show.
Until now it was the case that the shows inevitably fell at periods when we were otherwise engaged. And the opening of Depot Basel No. 5 on March 23rd was no different.
However, this time we’re hopeful we can make it, because the show runs until May 5th.
Longer than usual, but then they are also showing more than usual.
The “main” exhibition concerns itself with seating, specifically with Enzo Mari’s D.I.Y. chair as popularised by his 1974 book “Autoprogettazione”
For Depot Basel No. 5 the Swiss designers Christian Horisberger and Sibylle Stoeckli have created contemporary interpretations of the “Autoprogettazione” classic. Created albeit by following Mari’s 1974 rules.
Not only are the results of their experimentation on display, but visitors can take a copy of the designer’s plans with them and so re-create the works themselves at home.
What amuses us in this context is when we met Enzo Mari in Berlin last summer we took the opportunity to ask him if, given projects such as “Autoprogettazione”, he was an advocate of Open Design.
Maybe the Depot Basel project can win him over. We hope he drops by.
In addition to “Seats” Depot Basel No 5 is also showing results from the past three years of the “Take a Seat” project by Zurich design studio Aekae. Having been commissioned to redesign the cafe “Z am Park” Aekae also initiated a sort of revolving design-competition-sale-gallery-thingy. Every six months or so they send five designers four copies of perhaps the original Swiss cafe chair, the 1-380 from Horgenglarus to re-interpret and re-model.
The re-worked chairs are then used for three months in the cafe before being auctioned off.
A wonderful idea which not only creates a whole new sub-genre of gallery platform, but also is an interesting and innovative way to build up a discourse between the cafe and its guests.
For us the fascinating aspect of Depot Basel 5 is that it offers visitors the opportunity to question the chair.
At the opening of “Stühle ohne Beine” Bauhaus Archive Berlin director Annemarie Jaeggi spoke passionately about the social and cultural importance of the chair and how no consumer item better reflects our current society than the chair.
Is that still he case ? Or was the once the case ?
Certainly, for designers chairs offer the perfect platform on which to experiment, because, at least in our western world, everyone uses chairs.
As such chairs are a cultural medium we can all understand and so are probably the only consumer item that is guaranteed to generate some form of response is us all.
We can’t all relate to the latest smartphone, car or digital camera. We all understand the chair.
But do we buy chairs because the material or form language speaks to some aspect our lives ? Or do we consume because of the advertising ?
Every year someone asks in a pre-Milan text if we really need so many new chairs.
Maybe its about time more consumers asked what they want in their chairs.
Which of course is no more than Enzo Mari was up to in the early 1970s.
Using the chair as a symbol of his personal dissatisfaction with the state of the furniture industry and so through the chair challenging us all to take more initiative and responsibility for our consumption patterns.
Admittedly he has somewhat undone the good work by selling the license to Artek. But then even an Enzo Mari has to eat and pay bills.
As we say, unlike the impossible seeming Roses reunion, we’ve not made it to Depot Basel 5. Yet. But we will. And then we’ll bring you pictures and our impressions.
But despite having not seen it, we think for all who are planning being in Basel over the next few weeks, Depot Basel 5 sounds well worth checking out.
Depot Basel No. 5 runs at Schwarzwaldallee 305, Basel until May 6th 2012