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Friday, January 18, 2008

Top drawer

click to enlarge 013_chest-of-drawers22.jpg

(Photo: Tejo Remy, Chest of drawers, 1991. Used drawers, maple, jute strap, 60 x 110 x 120 cm, variable)

Design and art seem more and more intertwined these days, and nothing illustrates the conceptual dimension to design so much as two recent High Museum commissions. Both pieces, from the Dutch Droog Collective, push beyond the idea of design as all about static decor. One of the designs will use a native Atlanta tree to create a bench. The other asks Georgians to donate their drawers to create a collaborative piece of furniture.

Both Droog commissions engage the community in their making. And they have a collaborative element that builds a bridge between designer and audience.

I think they rock.

The High's curator of decorative arts, Ronald Labaco, is behind the High commissioning the two pieces by the Dutch Droog Collective.

Droog are the guys behind that recently smashed "Do Hit!" chair donated to the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center by another design junkie, retromodern's Scott Reilly (whose new 20,000-square-foot Westside location will feature one of five North American Droog concept stores), for a contemporary fundraiser. Participants in the "Do Hit!" event paid $50 for a chance to bash a square piece of steel into something resembling a seat. As a longtime observer of the nonprofit art scene, I am sure beating something with a sledgehammer did more for the community than just raise money for a good cause.

For the High, Droog's Jurgen Bey will create a "Tree Trunk Bench" from a tree harvested from the Atlanta Botanical Garden's future parking area. It's a mockernut hickory, for the arborealphiles out there. My cherry armoir tells me they make great seating.

I am especially excited about how that whole anti-Atlanta Botanical Gardens parking-deck crowd (who don't want a deck, but also don't like anyone visiting the garden to park on their streets. My take? You live in a city. If you don't want people parking in front of your house, move to Marietta) will take the news that art will be made out of one of the trees felled to make way for their reviled deck. The gesture is both environmentally responsible and "green," and a thumbed nose to the deck-phobes. Like all devious contradictions, I love it.

The other High-commissioned Droog piece, which also promises good armchair entertainment, is by Tejo Remy. It also has an interactive element. Atlantans and Georgians will jockey (a pun) to have their "pre-existing" drawers (not their undies, their square wooden things) used by the High in a kind of communal installation/art object held together with movers' straps.

Here's the fun part: Along with a picture of their "drawer" and dimensions, potential drawer donators will have to wow the Dutch with a solid rationale for their drawer's inclusion and submit a "motivational statement."

Here's mine:

"My drawer, which I obtained from my friend's Heywood-Wakefield buffet when he wasn't looking, is super-motivated to be in your museum. Shoot, my drawer is stoked about sharing the same space as your Eames Storage Unit and Memphis room divider. Additionally, my drawer and I both think saying 'Dutch treat' is racist and we love, love, love the films of Paul Verhoeven. And not because they are camp, but because they are good. In conclusion, I think I speak both for my drawer and myself when I say we would be psyched if you would allow us to participate in your groovy Dutch 'be-in.'"

To be honest, I can't really see donating a drawer. First of all, I don't steal. From friends. Secondly, my drawers have all been commissioned in the service of hiding my shit. I would have to pile all my twist ties and erasers on the floor in front of the missing drawer as a "statement" about careless housekeeping and consumerist values run amok.

In commissioning these two quirky, interactive works by Droog Collective, Labaco is demonstrating both A) that he is groovy and B) that he is aware of how permeable the formerly sacrosanct division between design object and art object has become. I think we should all signal our approval by showing him our drawers.

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