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Dysfunctional objects become collectors’ luxuries

A subversive art show that challenges the design norm

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Dysfunctional objects become collectors’ luxuries

Image: Jonathan Minster

December 02 2012
Nicole Swengley

What is a functional object that has been deliberately designed not to work? An object that, aside from one major flaw, remains in all other respects a finely crafted piece made from quality materials? It’s a dysfunctional luxury, according to London-based artist Jeremy Hutchison. “True beauty has no function,” he argues. “Beauty is not something to be used or understood. It is a feeling: beyond sense, beyond logic, beyond utility. It is an ethic of perfect dysfunction.”

To illustrate his belief, he invited factory workers around the world to introduce a key error to the objects they produce in order to create a limited-edition collection of beautiful, non-functioning designs. There’s the saw with teeth in the wrong place (second picture, £525; edition of 10) made by Wind Cheng in Suzhou, China, the double-headed sports racquet (£995; edition of six) produced by Janice Chen in Taiwan, and the bladeless cheese grater (£475; edition of 10) made by Zeng Wei Cheng in Yangjiang, China. In addition, some items, such as a hermetically sealed teapot (£1,495) and an unusable stepladder (£1,755), are unique.

Is the project little more than an art-world joke? Lu Gang’s classic notebook (£295; edition of 10), for example, is apparently held shut with an elastic strap but can’t actually open, and Soner Denurel’s solid Turkish cherrywood pipe (first picture, £475; edition of 10) can’t be smoked, while the wheels on Kim Lun’s skateboard (third picture, £775; edition of five) run in opposite directions. Because of these flaws, however, there is an intriguing irony at play: as practical domestic items they invoke frustration, yet by removing their function Hutchison elevates them to art objets. The collection, called Erratum, forms Hutchison’s first UK solo show.