Design at heart is an act that produces community. Though its day to day job seems to involve organising material and space, what it really does is organise relationships between us, each other and the world.
These are pieces of furniture as social sculpture that highlight the way that chairs organise our bodies in space.
Different chairs work in different ways, shaping how we feel and behave and how we sit in relationship to each other. The office chair and the armchair, for example are themselves products of the division of (bureaucratic) labour and relaxation. Each expresses an ideological position, which in turn positions us.
In the 17th century, S- shaped love seats emerged that created seating arrangements allowing courting couples to talk intimately without touching, manifesting the public morality of the time in furniture form.
Here though, these adaptations take as-found, individual chairs then rearranges them in different ways: Back to back, side to side, in groups of varying number. Each of these new arrangements creates a different social situation. Each presents a “unity through inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion” as Robert Venturi put it in Complexity and Contradiction.
These pieces are a kind of junkshop love seats exploring how more ambiguous and experimental relationships and community can be formed by furniture. The pieces seek to expose the social programming invisibly embedded within seating, and in doing so help us recognise the chair as a political idea as much as a design object.
The project also explores how the process of design and making forms community. Made from different 2nd hand pieces, each with its own past life and character, now bound together using tape into a new whole. Our process has formed communities too – from eBay sellers to our dialogue between London and Melbourne. The act of making these pieces was extremely distanced – by pandemic, by geography, by timezone – yet perhaps because of this also highly collaborative. And that process becomes part of the chair’s expression showing how making itself is an act of community.
They were originally shown as part of Melbourne Design Week