Unmaking Things is a new site founded and run by MA students in the Royal College of Art/Victoria and Albert Museum History of Design course. Using a "studio approach" for sharing and developing ideas around the history and theory of objects, writers explore topics "from product design to critical theory; from the history of decorative arts to analysis of space."
Articles are posted on a rolling basis, and may be only a sketch of an idea or a fully-developed article. Outside contributions are welcome, provided they follow the submission guidelines, and fit into one of the following column themes:
Connective Collections: A collection connects and circulates a remarkable profusion of ideas, people and objects; this column centres upon these forms of material culture, and seeks to explore not only the processes that lead to their creation and consumption, but the people and passion behind our obsession with things. In collaboration with collectors and curators, this thread intends to kindle an ongoing conversation that will share knowledge and connect our curiosity for these peculiarities of design history.
The Deconstructuralist: The structures in our society come in physical, societal, and theoretical forms. The Deconstructuralist investigates the architectural and geographic structures that surround us and that dictate our movement, as well as those structures in our society that prescribe our behavior – education, politics, economics.
Design/Art: This column offers to unravel and debunk the mechanisms of categorization in art and design, focusing on the decorative arts. Through a series of interviews and articles, we wish to offer a space for different actors, from curators and critiques, to makers, to unveil how categories are constructed and discuss their validity today.
Field Voices: This will be a column aimed at engaging with a variety of design history issues, such as how to create global history and how designers relate to their materials, through interviews and discussions with those working in the relevant field. Interaction with as many different areas of design history through the people that work within these fields will be encouraged.
Objects in Translation: Occurring between different cultures, places, languages, beliefs and disciplines, hybrid objects offer the identification boundaries, as well as a greater awareness and understanding of travel, exchange and cross-culturalism in design.
Post-Neo-De-CRAFT-ivism: From deceitful to skillful, handmade to digital and amateur to professional, craft is increasingly a vessel for shifting ideas rather than a definitive thing- in-itself. Embracing craft’s elusive nature, Post-Neo-De-Craft-ivism explores craft at both its obvious and unlikely borders.
Up today, in the "Design/Art" column, Justine Boussard examines our need to give proper names to mass produced objects in the The Practice of Naming Furniture:
The museological cataloguing system that we use to reference furniture is the same as for works of art: maker/artist, name of work, date, materials and dimensions. Within the museum and the gallery, the furniture item must therefore have a name; the main difference being that an anonymous chair won’t be referred to as ‘Untitled’, but as a generic yet specific ‘Chair’, and not ‘A chair’.
What is interesting in serial design is that contrary to most art, it is not a unique object that is created, but the system for its production – here I am consciously drawing a coarse parallel for the purpose of discussion. How significant is it then to give a proper name to a serial object?
The tradition of naming furniture is very impregnated within design culture. The great modernists have often imbued their chairs with references that went far beyond the object. To give a famous example, Marcel Breuer called his iconic armchair Wassily as a tribute to his friend Kandinsky. The proper name gives the chair its auratic yet intimate resonance as a product of a time, place and network.