Sunday, November 23, 2008

The first things that come to mind in a conversation about art and design are mass production and functionality. Art “by definition” cannot be mass produced while design “by definition” must be functional. Of course there are exceptions and that is where the real conversation begins .

For example Tomasso Lanza of the RCA designed a coffe cup which is cast with a 90 degree angle in the botton of the cup. Because of this angle it must be placed on the edge of a table. This forces one to be more cautious and thus pay more attention to the object. He is making a statement about disposable products and objects. They are meaningless to us, we do not care about them, yet you must care about this cup. This cup could be slipcast with ease and therefore be mass produced. It still retains its meaning despite its production and it is functional. Yet it is not design. It is bigger than that. This is a great illustration of how “design” has become the realm of what art should be. It seems that in art it is taboo to make any statement too obvious or too simple. Under the guise of a designer an artist can make bold statements such as this without fear of ridicule. Ironically the avenue of design makes art accessible both physically and mentally.

On the other hand you have Marteen Baas who makes chairs out of clay. They are all hand made and thus they are unique. They are colorful, absurd and playful; if Dr. Seuss were an industrial designer he would have made these, except the colors would have been better and there might be some feathers involved. But that’s all beside the fact. They are creative but involve very little craftsmanship, in fact it is as if he intended them to look bad, which in a way makes it all very much like contemporary art. These chairs, however, are by no means art. They are simply a different way of designing a chair.

Then you have Daniel Jo’s Promise ceramics which don’t really do anything and don’t have a point.

In reality it all comes down to intent. If the designer/artist wants to make a point or raise a question or generally have greater intent than creating an object then call it art. If the artist/designer wants to make something that is normally functional into something that is beautiful, then its design. If it doesn’t really do anything and doesn’t have a meaning then its kitche. I think the line between art and design is pretty clear if we can allow ourselves to ditch preconceptions while not giving in to relativism.

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