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when furniture is not furniture

To the Shakers, it was an ethos; to the oppressed and countless others, an ideology. It is a device, a dispositif, a burden, a prop, a financial consideration, a gift, and ultimately a consolable agreement of domestication.

On Colima Avenue in the Roma Norte district of Mexico City there is small retail establishment that caters to a modestly higher end clientele. On warm weather days, the staff likes to prop open their door by positioning a smaller, yet still operable and ostensibly comfortable Acapulco chair at the foot of the door. Lacking any proper hardware, the chair— in bright orange lanyard—is the doorstop, holding open the invitation.

For all intents and purposes, the chair in this respect is advertisement first; furniture, a distant second. Surely, should you find the need to sit down, the owners wouldn’t object to you sitting in the chair. In fact, sitting on the chair might convince you of the need to own it. Even still, it is perhaps no accident that the weight and size of the chair came to be used as a doorstop for a retail shop while in equal parts it remains representative of a cultural design icon. That is, ambassador of simply utilized materials refined for the modern interior. Only in this case the refinement is limited as it’s been relegated to function as a bucket full of cement would: repurposed for the simple function of holding the door open.

A few miles away in the Churubusco district, adjacent to the Churubusco Film Studios, is a country club. This country club, well over a hundred years old, was primed as a social and leisure club for expats, industrialists, and well-to-dos. In 1911 (or most likely earlier) the Zapatistas occupied this country club to use as a base prior to entering the center of Mexico City. While there, the Zapatistas utilized the opulent main dancing hall and dining room as a stable for horses and soldiers. The revolutionaries took to stripping each piece of furniture that contained a leather good: chairs, footstools, golf bags, and the like. These were used as vests and chaps for protection, belts and pockets for their cartridges. Wood was burned for food and warmth; ticking for saddle comfort and insulation. The methodical deconstruction of furniture further extrapolated the fundaments of furniture’s utility. Given that these articles were used for anything and everything other than their intended purpose, describes their transculturation in extremis, where the circumstances of war—a civil war, a war of interiority and its proper governance—pushes the necessity for rearticulation, where luxury is far outweighed and undermined. Certainly, there was no foreseeable conclusion by the designers that the leather used in their chairs would make for an apt use at holding bullets, but the threat of lacking supplies enabled the soldiers to reconstitute the furniture beyond the conclusions of its design. Within that brief instance, humble soldiers became industrial designers of the given age.      

In the efforts to dismantle the object—or in the case of the soldiers, the chair—one culls an intimate understanding of the thing. For the soldiers, it can be understood that their deconstruction of the furniture proved a sensibility to context; a sensitivity that was pertinent to their survival. It displayed a keen understanding of the object not evident (or obviously clearly indicated) by the original designer. Not only did their actions deconstruct the furniture, it further dematerialized the paradigm of utility. It presented an alternate form of understanding predicated on the need to fill in the voids left in their resources. This outsourcing of function cultivates similar motivations behind the work of PK, the collaborative behind the Lost Cabinet, a slow rebuilding of the famed Eileen Gray Architects Cabinet, where the act to deconstruct will formulate a further use. 

In the case of the Architects Cabinet, it is an object lost to history. That is, a piece of furniture never quite put into mass production. Instead, built, at last count, in an edition of two with one being used in her own home. With her buildings, chairs, and myths notwithstanding, this cabinet is the embodiment of a relic. A document of an occurrence without true context. One will note the similar circumstances of Arne Jacobsen’s Room 606, now located in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. Having lost out to the machinations of corporate complacency, Room 606 stands as the only document of intention behind Jacobsen’s collection of interior goods and furniture. It is the what-if guide to the considerations of his total design plan. Still viewable as a hotel room, we are drawn to it not for the sole merits of its design and function, but as the only of its kind. In this case, as in Ms. Gray’s cabinet, its myth exceeds its function.

Of public information, little is known of the Gray cabinet. It remains vague and frontal as any photographs of the cabinet show it displayed frontside, all drawers visible, if not open. A heavy and cumbersome furniture, it is reduced to the conditions of the photograph. Using this as their source material, PK have begun the reconstruction of a third cabinet, built overtime in a series of reinterpretations. Each section is being interpreted as much as it is being deduced, essentially reinvented and situated somewhere between art object and actual furniture. Linked to either, there is an aestheticized object, subservient to considerations authored by the collaborative. PK undertake an act of investigation through deconstruction as well as destruction, not unlike Mexico’s revolutionaries. Through this evaluative process they are conceiving works which set forth a new constitution of the Gray cabinet. It’s reinvention begets rearticulation. The conditions of use and interpretation of PK’s Lost Cabinet sets forth a challenge to the initiative: Is a cabinet also a narrative? Do we understand a functioning piece of furniture as linear, that which unfolds through time? This aspect of revealing is contingent to its obscuring and allows the furniture—PK’s and Gray’s alike—the wherewithal of mutability.

To further emphasize this point, PK constructed a set slatted blinds out of wood and brass. These blinds sit in front and adjacent to theconstituent cabinet pieces, partially open and visible to investigate the forms. The furniture pieces sit stoically and propped, left in the unapproachable obscurity that a window storefront is best capable of maintaining. For their version at Incident Report, Hudson NY, PK pauses the narrative. In this instance, the sculpture remains at arms length, inaccessible except for our willingness to fill in the gaps.

With each version of their Gray cabinet, the artists dislocate it from its original source. Each new chapter, or scene as they call it, positions their work as cumulative dialogue engaging with its preceding iteration. As we view this cabinet, the window barrier will flatten the furniture, unspeakable from any other vantage point and relegate itself to the two-dimensional plane. It will reinvent itself as an image, a broken image collated from guesswork and the very few photographs that proliferate the internet. Despite the reinvention of the cabinet, it appears that the Lost Cabinet has fallen to the act of flattening, albeit purposeful and content with the making of its own myth. This too will reveal itself over time. Impractical to the ways of utility, but prosperous in its fortitude for interpretation.  

galería perdida