© Selim Projects

The Glass House Syndrome

Entry for the Sharing design competition
Tapio Wirkkala Rut Bryk Foundation (TWRB)
April 2016


There exists an imbalance between the tidy archival representation and the noble rhetoric of “Finnish Design” - and the actual lives lived and experiences had by the designers themselves. Often, pre-validated and celebrated objects are put on display as modernist “trophys”. The practice accentuates conventions for the interpretation, origins and aesthetics of the pieces, suggesting only certain, proper viewings - as though the case was closed from later, alternating or new experiences.

Yet, even by observing designers’ or artists’ work spaces and homes today (as forms of collections and archives accumulated by life) we realize that all objects and items around us are part of the changing assemblages of our interests; curated and informed by our current experiences, readings and knowledge. Understandably, the aesthetics and forms of these more “real” collections are slighty different than the collections displayed and labeled as "Design" or "Art".

The Modernist Displays’ Dilemma

As art and design are celebrated through canonical biographies and display vitrines, an underlaying problem relates to modernism’s penchant for exhibitionism. In fact, the modern display - whether an exhibition or a home - is a “rigged” vitrine, working to enforce mostly its own subjective (though often wonderful) version of the ever-vernacular world.

We can think of a modernist glass house as a metaphor to the vitrine. Paradoxically, the tasteful house is supposedly the container of modern life - and yet - it mostly appears as its academically curated image - devoid of the messiness of the “process” and the “workshop-ness” of the archive.

The Burning Questions

How then, to research new ways of representing celebrated works of modern art and design? How to address the “other worlds” behind the familiar and heroic narratives? How and where to host such discussions? Because, as we can see from observing the archive, a viewing and reading of the work and life of Wirkkala and Bryk may easily find connotations, private avenues, shades and tones that are left out of the traditional exhibition.

Thus, the ultimate question becomes: How to get in? How to access The Glass House - How to invite everyone to those elitist discourses it supposedly hosts?

© Selim Projects 2016