Friday, June 12, 2009

Desgin for the Asses

Today, I got off my butt. And it was about time: I had been sitting on my butt, or lying on it, or occasionally using its musculature to waddle into the kitchen in search of cheese, for about two weeks, and that portion of my anatomy was starting to seem overplayed. So I got off my butt, strode bravely out the door, and...went to an exhibit about sitting.

OK, so there was a little more to it than that, but European Design since 1985, a bargain at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, does feature a lot of chairs. And tables, and tea sets, and lamps, and benches, and ladders, and even a compact yet lissome vacuum cleaner.

I trust you know how museum exhibits work. You wander around, speaking in hushed tones, taking care not to touch anything for fear of inciting the wrath of the ancient yet menacing docents who stand against the wall so stiffly you sometimes mistake them for art. Under normal circumstances, I'm a model museum-goer. Today, though, my hands took on a life of their own: again and again, I snatched them back as they wandered toward the smooth silver surface of a spoon, the soft biomorphic curves of a couch.

TOUCH ME! everything in the exhibit screamed. TOUCH ME NOW! It's possible this phenomenon was merely a symptom of my incrementally increasing summer derangement, but there's also this: design, standing as it does at the crossroads of art and function, is different. You interact intellectually with art; you interact physically with design. You heft the pitcher, scrape the plate, drop your seat bones back into bliss.

How odd, then, to chafe against the velvet rope.

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