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Reading B is for Bauhaus by Deyan Sudjic (Turner 2014) we realize that the debate about whether the postmodern era has given rise to a powerful change that may leave Nikolaus Peysner’s modern movement behind has been unnecessarily protracted. Some say postmodernism has ended up being a repetition of old models seeking only a rupture and with a significance that has not reached society as comprehensively as the modern movement did. It might be because it is a body of art movements or because everybody wants to make it their own, overstretching it and making it, thus, diverse.

It seems that postmodernism has failed because it has never really been clearly defined, but, actually, great movements have ceased to exist. We cannot keep on talking about a single movement, but many co-existing as a group; a reflection of the increasingly artistic and creative society, finding its own identity around the world. In fact, something similar happened with modernism: there were constructivists, Le Corbusier; Bauhaus, Scandinavian rationalism being all of them fundamentally different.

The concept of modern is logical and rational. This has facilitated its unification, propagation and extension and has made it difficult to rule out with reasoning on new tendencies, especially, if you do it from a rational viewpoint, leading to the fact that probably this is the last homogeneous movement we will see, if it is indeed.

 

 


In industrial design, functionalism, well-balanced and practical objects, is understandable, gentle and particularly difficult to be forced aside. During the last century, many opposed styles to modern movement have been emerging in order to create concepts and forms, but modern rationalism still imposes itself. These alternative forms of design generate critical thought, but they have not had a global result, most probably because so far rationalism has a better understanding of industrial productivity and economic performance.

One way to departure from rationalism and go in search of new horizons is thinking that designers are artists. MoMA was the first museum to accept pieces of art from industrial design paving the way for art and design juxtaposition. Ron Arad has been promoting this concept for years, after George Nelson stated that designers made art. Even though it is important to detach from modern, squared, functional, strict and still concepts, designers cannot consider ourselves artists to achieve it. This is not the way. The industrial revolution has modernized the production from the craftwork and stepping backwards from art makes no sense at all.

In my opinion, considering the idea of being a designer-artist is giving oneself airs, like if artist was superior. A way to justify that everyone can do what they feel like and believe that the focus of design is not the object, the user or its utility, but the designer. Real artists are under no obligation to make good art. They simply do what they want and are not necessarily aware of quality. On the contrary, designers have to make a good design for users which can be aesthetically, ergonomically, productively, functionally and economically appreciated, it must represent, therefore, a belonging and at the same time an improvement for society.

Besides, mass production is very far from art, if Andy Warhol excuses me. Nobody likes buying framed prints from IKEA knowing that so many people have the same in their living rooms. Art has to be unique or almost unique, if it so desires; conversely, industrial production has no option but to be mass-produced.

Designers can take creative processes from art with the intent of surprising and making people think, but they cannot consider themselves artists when designing; its purpose is not only to contribute to the cultural aspect, but also to improve society as a whole as well as consumer goods. Design can be critic but this cannot be the only foundation. And designers can be artists any time, but not when designing. Ron Arad makes chairs that are works of art but not designs; a designed chair is concerned with other than the self-idolatry creator.  

It is very dangerous to oversimplify it making our future designers choose at schools whether becoming artists. If they got it wrong, and instead of taking resources from art they believe they are artists, life’s odd turns can make them suffer years later, destroying their pretensions of creative attracting attention. And if, by contrast, they are not able to see the creative aspect of the design, they could become totally rational, ending up as merely technical tools of the good production system, like engineers or mechanics. We have to give them the means and forget about smugness. We need non-narcissistic thinkers.

In short, everybody can naturally do whatever they want, but generally speaking it seems that design is far too focused on rebelling against the past and standing out, just like rebel teenagers against their parents and the world, repudiating the modern movement as if it was something bad and seeking a formula to gain a better social esteem. Apparently designers, instead of honouring designs, want to be more than that, want to be artists and show off. Whilst more established or classical arts, like architecture, are more mature and revere and respect their modern past, they still can be conceptually ground-breaking. It is about respect, without having to set completely new standards to take the next step; little by little the moment will come.  

Design is not mature enough and we have to start to believe that is a valuable and established way of creating, on the same level art is, but it is not art. MoMA did not say design was art, but a very interesting way to create.


 


Here you have two proposals of watering cans to illustrate my thoughts. It represents two of the infinite forms from where an industrial design project can be performed in a personal way but focusing on user and object, not on oneself. There are many respectable ways to tackle a design, it all depends on the mood, inspiration, technic or even on the customer. What is clear is that the focus cannot be on designers, let alone if they think they are artists.  

The red watering can is rational. It has an ideal and well-thought capacity of water storage and three positions to grip at the user’s convenience; it is stable and has a wide spout to water quickly and has a lip on the container that prevents water spilling. Its size derives from golden proportion. It has been designed so that the focus is on productivity, use and efficiency.

On the contrary, the black one has been intuitively designed, taking the Catalan porró as a referent, which is handcrafted and formally preconceived in our collective imagination. It is svelte and has an intent but is not as convenient to carry as the other one. The focus is on the object itself which is the cause of the context.

The difference between them is probably the message, the appeal. One is the calculation of a watering can, the other is the interpretation of a pre-existing container of liquids. Through the form you can read the message, whether you are a designer or not, without seeing the artistic greatness of its creator, who goes unnoticed.

There is no need to be a rupturist, anti-rational artist who wants to be in the spotlight to make a watering can… it would be ridiculous. The key is to find our way to create forms and functionalities and progressively make the design great, without showing off and we will get there.

I hate Philippe Starck