Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hacking IKEA aloe vera, and other rainy day fun

I probably shouldn't make a habit of simply reposting all the cool stuff I find on Arthur every day, but goshdarnit, this journal of "Homegrown Counterculture" has been on a roll lately--it's like a cross between Pitchfork and BoingBoing with a little Whole Earth Catalog for good measure. I was intrigued by the subject line "Repairing is the new recycling", except that I tend to stockpile broken stuff and never quite get around to repairing or recycling it. Nonetheless, I can certainly get behind the following manifesto. (Click on it for a readable version.)

Turns out the text is the work of a Dutch art and design collective called Platform 21, and judging from their various projects, they seem to have a pretty playful approach to their mission. There are a lot of artists around the world doing work along these lines lately, and I haven't really seen enough of P21's to get a good sense of how effective or thorough their particular approach may be, but I like what I see on their site. My eyes went straight for "Hacking Ikea" (2008):

Around the world, for a variety of personal motives, professional and nonprofessional designers are making individual alterations to off-the-shelf products. In the process, they pay little or no attention to a product’s original function. Some do it for fun, others out of necessity, and still others out of a critical attitude toward mass production. IKEA hacks--the appropriation, adaptation and transformation of standard IKEA products--are among the most noticeable expressions of this movement. IKEA is a very successful and consumer-friendly multinational, with a large fan base all across the Western and Asian world. But it is also a cultural entity, an economic force and an icon of global change. Therefore it is not surprising that numerous artists and designers as well as the general public, have a special relationship with IKEA. ...

Looking around my home, it's safe to say I have one of those "special relationships," too. The site contains several examples of Platform 21's members' and guest designers' mostly tongue-in-cheek "hacks," complete with IKEA-style diagrams of the specific products being recontextualized. I've included a shoutout to another one on my music blog, but you won't want to miss this satirical response to a common phenomenon:

There is no natural daylight in IKEA, though it does sell plants. They are at the end of the route, where they fulfill the role of decorations to be quickly snapped up. This annoys Frank Bruggeman, who has therefore created IKEA GARDENING: an indictment of the plant as an interior accessory, but at the same time a positive influence. It makes people aware of cultivation: plants are given space, and decorative fruits have been planted as seeds.

The closest store to me is in Southern Ontario--i.e., on the other side of a border that doesn't look kindly on international plant trafficking--so I can't rescue those sun-deprived aloes whether I want to or not. Here's Bruggeman's hack, as photographed by Leo Verger:

Not a bad setup--my favorite part, which I may well be misreading, is the apparent call to plant the potpurri mix. Free the captives of consumerism!

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