the second truck had a feasable weight limit and much more room. everything made its way in no problem and this time i captured the strays. the warehouse in seattle is beautiful; the possibilities abundant and new inspiration (my friend, ben pederson)…well, it’s all there. my younger sister, katie, is coming up to live and breathe in the long shadow of mt. rainier and we have designs on a couple of pieces of furniture, to say the least. some plans in the works for upholstery. in the mean time i am working dilligently (starting tomorrow) on the steel cabinetry that will be installed on a kitchen/bath remodel i’m running in SE portland. there will certainly be photos, posted in the “construction” section of the website, coming later in the month. the cabinet package is use of mostly salvaged mild steel that i clean up and patina with copper sulphate, applied with propane, steel wool, lint free cotton and spirits. several years ago i read a book called “on the advantages and disadvantages of art for life.” that title tipped something in my mind at the time, but i didn’t take the TIME to ponder what it was. i realized several weeks ago, after poring through all my books (most of which i haven’t looked at whatsoever for the past four years), that it was a takeoff on nietzsche’s book, “on the advantages and disadvantaged of history for life.” i find it advantageous to quote the first paragraph of his preface here, as it somehow direcly relates to the theme of my (our) lives right now: “”Moreover I hate everything which merely instructs me without increasing or directly quickening my activity.’ These are Goethe’s words with which, as with a boldly expressed ‘ceterum censeo,’ we may begin our consideration of the worth and worthlessness of history. Our aim will be to show why instruction which fails to quicken activity, why knowledge which enfeebles activity, why history as a costly intellectual excess and luxury must, in the spirit of Goethe’s words, be seriously hated; for we still lack what is most necessary, and superfluous excess is the enemy of the necessary. Certianly we need history. But our need for history is quite different from that of the spoiled idler in the garden of knowledge, even if he in his refinement looks down on our rude and graceless requirements and avoiding of life and action, or even to whitewash a selfish life and cowardly, bad acts. Only so far as history serves life will we serve it: but there is a degree of doing history and an estimation of it which brings with it a withering and degenerating of life: a phenomenon which is now as necessary as it may be painful to bring to consciousness through some remarkable symptoms of our age.” i’ll try to make some confusing remarks about this. the “age” of which he speaks seems to be even more developed (perhaps in both negative AND positive aspects) and those who estimate rather than do, continue to degrade the very thing they estimate. in the example of history, it is history itself (necessary for life, but not so in intellectual excess). it is interesting to replace the concept of art with that of history here… which is an idea purveyed in that book i mentioned earlier and not an idea i am bringing up as mine and original. because art often responds to itself and develops through time and within practitioners… but where art interacts with estimators, critics, dealers, and those of that second tier ilk, it begins to react to an economy, to a market, and loses the life that originally inspired it. these pure ideas are what make me appreciate communism… or its more realistic neighbor: socialism. in a social climate, there is art: often shared with the public, or brought to bear in public realms. the artist does his art, smokes victory cigarettes and drinks victory vodka. just kidding. perhaps i’m speaking of a socialism with a tiny bit LESS government interference. the artist does his art. he cares about little else. he eats, makes love to his wife, feeds his kids, has coffee with his neighbors from time to time, etc. he doesn’t care for instance about money. society has money and gives it to him so that he has only to worry about his art. there is the baker. the clothing maker. the journeyman laborer. there is also the lawyer and the doctor. and the financial analyst. they are each trained by society to care about their field. interests in other fields are cuiriosities and luxuries of knowledge, indulgences, things spoken about over coffee in the morning before returning to work. this is a system which cherishes the work, rather than the retirement. (today i was thinking about those late night television shows that feature someone who has somehow learned the art of getting rich and he’s on there telling viewers to buy his video or book about how to be SUCCESSFUL and to follow the pattern that he himself came up with and how with five years of simple application everyone will be rich…. well, doesn’t that sound horrible. what if everyone becomes “rich?” then there isn’t “rich” anymore. doesn’t anyone love what they do any more. i know, i’m exaggerating. but i was thinking that there should be the same show, except the rich guy is just someone who has found what he loves. for instance, he is a fly fisherman and loves it so much, he makes it his job; so he teaches other people and guides, etc. so on the show, the man who’s found what he loves, encourages others to find what they LOVE, if you can’t figure out what you love, find someone who has and go work for him for a while and figure out what it makes him feel like.) this way we can re-establish community; there is no longer the degenerative gentrifying of community based on spurious desires like getting rich. (getting rich seems to be good only if it’s an EFFECT of doing what you love.) so if we return to the idea of history (i hope it becomes clear in consequent entries why history and art are related conceptually)… a true moment, where presence is imminent, may become part of history precisely because of this imminence of the now… the moment is so powerful that it merits being recorded. episodes of this nature strengthen the creative aspect of history and it future as an inspiring force for others… WHEREAS, if just anything gets recorded because of mere speculation abou the past or future, etc. this very moment, the moment of speculation, of weakened conjecture about humanity and its state of affairs, leads away from the creative aspect of history. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS DOING. (i meant to say that in a subtle way.) that kind of weak administration, motivated by fear, and under the assumption that just about ANYTHING can become a part of history, thinks that “history repeats itself.” so they become scared because we’re like rome or something. other bad things happened in “history,” therefore they’re bound to happen again, soon. no, there is no such rhyme to history. that’s not why it’s there (to speak ignorantly about it… i mean, i’m only in the second chapter of the book), rather, it is the unfolding of a tale. no one reading a story wants to read the same thing over and over again within the same narrative. what nonsense. that is actually the very meaning of the word history: to inquire. to ask of the great series of moments that they tell their STORY. this interpretation makes the concept imply something more like a continuum or flow of moments… rather than a frightened progression away from spiritual presence. that’s enough for tonight. i hate to confuse people, but this whole business is bewildering.
i am on the mailing list for design within reach, a modern furniture catalogue and retail chain that features internationally known furntiure designers. often the memos feature interesting if tangential inquiries into aesthetics and design, written for the most part by the founder of the company, rob forbes. i have often appreciated these newsletters for their somewhat erudite and non-partisan orientation, meaning they are not selling you merchandise. so today i received a newsletter whose topic involved the chance encounters of the dwr founder with aesthetic contrasts that he surreptitiously stumbles upon while travelling. at first i was impressed by subject of his article, and again, impressed that he was making a nice departure from trying to sell merchandise, like he truly cares about the world of design. so a couple of his examples of flashy objects contrasted and emphasized by their surroundings were: men sitting in chairs in cuba, black bodies and spindly limbs situated haphazardly in cheap chairs in stark contrast to the dull communist block streets and buildings; metal spikes in a worn piece of limstone on some building in new york city; and (the worst in my opinion) a stack of plastic chairs in a back yard lawn somewhere. i liked the arbirary quality of his subject matter and his writing… but then a couple of times his tone set something off in, well, in my head. i like the photos of cuba (see http://www.dwr.com/dwrCard.cfm), but then i thought, “wait, why are you taking photos of stacks of plastic chairs and running them through strange considerations of logic of placement and aesthetics? really you’re just taking a photo of a bunch of plastic chairs and talking at length about them. this perhaps touches on one of the very annoying attributes of the art world. i understand that it must be hard to come up with new subject matter each week, but should we really resort to plastic chairs? then i looked at his thought process a little: he goes through a veritable interpretation of this photo he took of some spikes set in concrete (or stone, i’m not sure) and states: “These worn stone columns and stonework details from a building front in New York become a gripping still life because of the contrast with the lethal metal daggers embedded there to ward off birds and bums.” Lethal metal daggers? Ok, i can sort of see what you mean, but then he just trapses over a delicate social issue: the homeless. he’s making light airy educated statements about the absolute virtue of these “contrasts” of the visual realm as he’s meandering around the world’s great cities, and says, look how great this item is: it’s for warding off birds and BUMS. i can’t believe he just said that! what is a “bum?” i guess you gather from context and linguistic and social seasoning that, in this context, “bum” means someone without a home who is being warded off from this stoop. i have to admit that i have used the expression several times, but not after i thought about what it meant, and not in a high profile context. so why does rob forbes call these guys bums? bums don’t buy furniture. and a bum would certainly get in the way of this lovely photo of “lethal daggers.” bums have no place in the world of DESIGN WITHIN REACH. so, all around, he’s glad that these daggers are placed in the concrete: they’re vivid in their stark contrast with surrounding banality AND they keep bums away. two birds with one spike! so, mildly offended, i continued to peruse the clipping… of design within reach. some of the prices seem “reasonable” and others inordinate. that’s fine, i’m not passing judgement on what the market bears, i mean, i make my living building furniture and selling it for a certain price… but then there’s another statement that catches my eye. under the advertisement for the dwr credit card there is this statement of what a credit card IS: “The whole point of a credit card is to make your life easier and to provide you with a world of possibilities. The DWR Credit Card account does both, with straightforward payment options, a Low APR Equal Payment Plan and numerous exciting ways to access the international design community.” to make your life easier and provide you with a world of possibilities? no, that’s not at all what the credit card IS. so after this feature article which seems to be almost completely explicit in its deliniation of what things are, of their qualities and attributes, we get this slap in the face statement of essence. a credit card is for spending money you don’t have: what a horrible thought: spending $117/mo. on the parentesi extension table! it never crossed my mind that people would buy this furniture on such terms. it all of a sudden seemed like a very dirty business to me. these pieces are already priced at near artwork levels, meaning they’re overpriced based on someone’s reputation and status… an now you can pay 20% more than that per month just for the pleasure of getting this flimsy table RIGHT AWAY. what a blatantly ugly thought. the aesthetic character of this sentiment is antipodal to at least the claim of the newsletter, i.e. interest in a kind of transcendental artistic endeavor. i realized how little, all of a sudden, i appreciate this world. i like looking at the design and thinking about how these things are built, but the realm into which they’re going… what is that? aesthetically speaking, and strictly speaking, i greatly prefer some guy’s basement apartment with a few sarongs tossed around and piles of books on the floor and an old chair that he found on the street (that he reads in) to some asshole’s apartment with all this design crap purchased on credit. i am developping a philosophical idea/pattern called the rule of contradictions… it is based on the idea that once something becomes very well developped and makes money easily and has “a foot in the door”, well, once IT begins making assumptions about pure concepts, like truth and beauty, etc. once can ASSUME an opposite stance and PRESUME that it’s true. i guess i’m trying to make a joke there. i don’t actually claim to do philosophy. maybe i just have a little too much time on my hands to read the design within reach newsletter.
many people have asked me how i carve the seats of chairs. i have an upcoming tutorial. i’ll keep you all posted.
i’m realizing slowly the importance of good communication. example: yesterday i was standing in line in a café, talking to the gentleman in front of me. he was holding forth about his irritation with the bureaucracy of large corporations and how annoying it is to be inside of an electronic telephone labyrinth when really you just want a human voice to help you; as he was speaking he stepped back a litte bit and put a large portion of his weight on my foot. at first i was “nice” and didn’t say anything… then it became painful and i couldn’t really concentrate on what he was saying any more, so i said, “sir, i believe you are standing on my foot.” he immediately removed himself from my personal space and apologized as well. it was surprisingly easy. similarly, i was shopping for a faucet fixture to go into a remodelling project i’m working on: i was astonished at how much these fairly nice faucets were going for (the ones we wanted were in the $1,000 range)… so i joked with the saleswoman about the inordinance of these prices and she explained that there were cheaper fixtures available but that they would leak when installed. to me, this was as ridiculous as the price of the faucets. so i asked her if she didn’t have anything that had been dropped or run over and perhaps i could buy that to put it in my client’s kitchen. then a lightbulb lit in her head and she said, “actually i have one of these grohe faucets in the store room that is on clearance.” so, to make this short, i got a thousand dollar faucet for two hundred bucks. again, how incredible the facility of language! i know it can do many other things as well besides satisfying simple appetites, but i’m a slow learner.
there is nothing to worry about, per se. nature has its own system of checks and balances. i know someone who knows a lot more about this. let me know if you want more information.