User-Unfriendly Objects

Monday, August 18, 2014 - 08:00 AM

(Katerina Kamprani)

Vindictive, sadistic, frustrating, twisted. Those are a few words people have used to describe Greek artist Katerina Kamprani’s work. At a time when so many people are singing the praises of well-designed objects, Kamprani went in the opposite direction. For her series The Uncomfortable, she designed objects whose very function is to frustrate users. A watering can's spout turns backwards, a mug has a drainage strainer on top, a rain boot has an open toe, and a chair is slanted in a way that makes sitting impossible. She also made a wide variety of forks: one with detachable prongs, another that collapses like nunchucks.

It’s hard not to have a visceral reaction to these things. We’ve all struggled with a new product and wondered whether the designer was actually playing a cruel joke. This is a rare instance that makes you angry and makes you laugh at the same time.

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Comments [8]

Bill W from St Paul, MN

Kamprani's work is nearly identical to the innovator, Jacques Carelman. See his Catalogue of Impossible Objects.
Once an innovator causes one to see/imagine things in a new light, it is easy to replicate that mindset. Kamprani is not that original.

Aug. 30 2014 09:03 PM
Keira from Manhattan

To clarify my earlier comment about the gumboots, I used the word "fiendish" in the playful way I think they were conceived, and not as a criticism of them—"fiendishly playful" would have been more apt. They bring to mind the many times waterproof winter boots proved to be anything but! These proudly announce their deficiencies at the outset.

Aug. 24 2014 05:56 PM
525tra from Bristol, UK

art525 - I like your points, I agree much of what's bandied about as art these days is derivative .. however, I think the fact so many people are wanting to call themselves artists these days is more a comment on our current society than an indictment of art today. Society tends towards narcissism and even less inclined to toil with every new generation. It's no wonder some art might come across as cheap shot.

Anyway, I feel that art is deeply affected by context. While these pieces might not be making a grand statement .. they set me along some paths of inquiry that I personally find interesting.

How is our our relationship with physical products / objects affected, in an age when our smartphones aims to please us to the nth-degree. Personally my tolerance for ineffective design is virtually nil these days .. just looking at some of these concept designs makes my blood start to boil.

Maybe effective, purposeful, products actually lead us to the very narcissistic and lazy society that you're so at odds with?

Aug. 23 2014 09:41 AM
Carillon from St. John's, Newfoundland

Art525, if you don't like it, don't look at it! I think the boots are delightful. They make me laugh. Not fiendish or sadistic, just good fun.

The really silly part is that I can totally imagine the young women in my community wearing them - perhaps even the young artsy types wearing them as a deliberate statement about the place and the weather, as we get lot of rain, drizzle and fog ("RDF", the regular weather report here) and gumboots (without the toes cut out) are about the most popular footwear around.

If your sense of fun is different, that's fine - but no need to criticize folks who think this is lovely!

Aug. 23 2014 09:06 AM
art525 from Park Slope

What do they make you think about Shirley? Your toes could get wet? I see nothing interesting, amusing, provocative or original in these objects. Keira mentions Meret Oppenheim's fur lined tea cup. Of course these objects bring to mind her teacup because she did it originally and far far better. At the time she did it it was an original act. Now it's redundent and just like making multiple Xeroxes each time it diminishes the output. Oppenheim's fur lined tea cup conjures up a certain horror of drinking out of a cup lined with a dead animal's pelt. What does a watewring can with a backward spout make you think of? Please share. We live in a time where someone climbs the Brooklyn Bridge and changes the flags and calls it art. We live in a time when an "artist" splashes the walls of the Whitney with blood and calls it art. An "artist" imitates Ai Weiwei and smashes one of his antique vases imitating Weiwei's own act. How can the museum really prosecute someone for peforming an act in that mirrors the vaunted artist on display. Same with the Whitney. How can you condemn someone for doing an act that under different circumstances you would display in the Biennial? Yes the "artist" didn't have permission but isn't so much of contemporary art premised on the idea of being transgressive? I'm sorry but these objects are just stupid and prompt not thinking for me and in fact not even a modest chuckle. They are just stupid. Rather than a gallery they belong in a quirky gift shop. Is Spencer Gifts still in business?

Aug. 22 2014 08:24 AM
Keira from Manhattan

Brings to mind Meret Oppenheim's fur lined cup and spoon, 1936, in the MoMa collection. The gumboots are fiendish!

Aug. 19 2014 11:19 AM
shirley from NJ

Art can be pretty broad. Not all art needs to be heart-stopping, soaring monuments to beauty. For me, it is any form of expression that makes me think. These pieces do that.

Aug. 19 2014 10:14 AM
Art525 from Park Slope

It is amazing the stupid things that peoe claim in the name of art today. No this is not art and the creator is not an artist at least as based on these almost clever objects. In the past it might be something for a cabinet of curiosities but that's about it.

Aug. 18 2014 08:59 AM

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