Posts Tagged ‘irony’

Is this a joke?

Looks like something you could sit on if you had to.  But wait, is that a bunch of old rags?

Tejo Remy is a Dutch designer.  His 1991 Rag Chair “is created from layered clothing and discarded rags. The reused textiles are collected and shaped with black metal straps to form a large, bulky and eccentric lounge chair. The concept behind the chair is to provide a unique piece of furniture, while at the same time providing a collection of memories that can be flipped through and treasured.”* Every chair is different, of course, and can be custom made for you from your old clothes.

He also designs chests of drawers, called “You Can’t Lay Down Your Memories,” which are composed of random drawers bundled together by metal straps.

As you look at these, both the chair and the drawers, do you get the feeling that what might be operating here is irony?

In the case of the chair, if you really treasured your old clothes and the memories they associate to, you would preserve them in a more, shall we say, loving way.  You might re-tailor a jacket or a skirt for whimsical evening wear, to go to the theater, say.  You could engage a quilter to go wild with her imagination or donate your stuff to a painter friend for incorporation in a mixed medium piece.  Such re-purposing comes with a dose of irony, sure, but it would be irony cultivated out of a sense of history, melancholy and affirmation.

The bundled up drawers are even more ironic than the Rag Chair because they come with a didactic name attached:  ‘You Can’t Lay Down Your Memories.”  You’re saying I’m trying to lay down my memories?  But I can’t?!  You’re saying, memories are all a jumble and they will never fall into place in an orderly pattern that makes sense. Might as well face it and live with the randomness that is called your memories.

If your past—personal, social, historical—makes sense and was orderly, then you will have a place for everything and everything in its place. You will be offended by Remy’s pile of mismatched drawers. You will restore and treasure an antique breakfront or china cabinet. Like this, perhaps.


Both the Rag Chair and “You Can’t Lay Down Your Memories” are in museum collections and valued in the thousands.  These designs are freighted with, yes, irony, which means you are being challenged to think and interpret.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a Remy Rag Chair.  Next time I go there I’ll hover around the Rag Chair waiting to hear someone say to a spouse, Oh, honey we’ve got to have one of these, perfect for the TV room, looks cheap and the kids wouldn’t have to be careful.  That won’t happen.  People will continue to look confused and challenged by modernism.

Next, we’ll look at our contemporary need for re-purposing.

In the meantime, allow yourself to be fooled by something today, this April First.

*Quoted from Chair—500 Designs that Matter. Phaidon.

Tejo Remy, b. 1960


All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.





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The model for this charcoal drawing was an old photo, probably 13CynthiaBridalBoldPhototaken in the 1920’s. Cynthia worked from the well-preserved, 7” high oval original.

The emotions that inevitably accompany family photos can serve either a) as fuel to keep you working at the drawing or b) they can get in the way and overwhelm you.  The class was divided along that line about half and half.

One of the people whose work was fueled by the emotions emanating from these oldies was Cynthia, who produced this strong drawing. The couple is handsome, but the artist did not glamorize them.  It’s their wedding photo, but she did not sentimentalize them.


There are three elements in this drawing, as in the photo:  man, woman and bouquet. Notice that the flowers are worked out in greater detail than the people. The outer half of the man’s face is not attended to at all. The woman’s face is asymmetrical, problematic and suggestive of


complexity.There’s a dark objectivity here, alienation even, reminiscent of the faces by Matisse and Picasso.  This is good.  Staying away from the pretty and the flattering and allowing yourself to drift into irony and alienation is good because it makes you think.  Cynthia’s drawing comes out of a modern sensibility: it roughs you up a bit, because it avoids the clichés about weddings, happiness and destiny.

13CynthiaBridalBoldFlowers The drawing as a whole, showing the bride, groom and the flowers,  sets up all sorts of tensions.  The drawing is so strong that each of the three elements (man, women, bouquet) can also stand on its own. I’m showing these individually because each deserves close study. After looking closely, go back to look at the whole drawing, shown at the very top.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.




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