Chairs, along with films, buildings, cars, and undoubtedly much else in our list-led consumption-driven world, have their ‘1001 best examples of’ book.
A good chair is indeed a fine object – aesthetically pleasing, functional and light.
Over the years I have gathered around me some chairs that it is almost fair to say ‘I love’ – they please me so much. I enjoy just looking at them. I know I can sit on them in comfort. I know I can move them with ease. These three attributes are the essentials of a fine chair, to my mind.
Now, using my favourite chairs, I want to tease the passersby with a chair-based installation and a simple question that has been bothering me:
How many people in the world own a chair?
The answer is impossible to establish – just as Schrodinger’s cat couldn’t be both alive and dead, and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle suggests that the position and momentum of an object cannot be measured with absolute accuracy (because the time taken to measure allows change to occur in one or the other phenomenon). Just as two variables cannot be known simultaneously, it is clearly impossible to precisely ascertain bums on seats. But does physics make the question not worth asking, or a possible answer not worth pondering?
Sadly I am no physicist and my interest here is in culture as much as in science and philosophy, but I will hazard a guess in answer to my question:
in the west we take chairs for granted but in more populous other parts of the world, where the floor, a carpet or bolster will do, the use of a chair is not a given, indeed use of a chair might well signal discomfort, interrogation, scrutiny and elevation of an unwelcome kind …
so cultural preference plus some kind of head count, and consideration also for the 60 million odd refugees not carrying chairs may suggest that those with chairs are not in the ascendent ...
A search for chairs on google (from my location, a swivel chair at a table made from a door) produces: for sale, ikea, kmart, online, for backs, ebay, bunnings ... and stools, then there’s the electric chair and the Eames chair, along with the Barcelona …
when is a chair just a chair? Somehow a chair always has more meaning than ‘just a chair’ so perhaps there is no such thing …
Ionesco wrote to the first director of his play The Chairs (1952) regarding ‘the last decisive moment of the play’ which ‘involved’ the absence of the two actors (who had jumped out the window): "At this moment the audience would have in front of them ... empty chairs on an empty stage decorated with streamers, littered with useless confetti, which would give an impression of sadness, emptiness and disenchantment such as one finds in a ballroom after a dance; and it would be after this that the chairs, the scenery, the void, would inexplicably come to life (that is the effect, an effect beyond reason, true in its improbability, that we are looking for and that we must obtain), upsetting logic and raising fresh doubts."
So too I wish to raise ‘doubts’ about some of the objects I dare to say ‘I love’.
Artist introduction to favourite chairs
Sat 31.10.15 @ 11 am – 79 Main Street BEEAC