The V&A museum in London is ever so hot right now. In the fall we’ll see not only the exhibition about postmodernism hanba’s been so pumped about, but also one about what’s coming afterwards. Maybe post-postmodernism is about a return of the crafts? Parallel to the postmodern exhibition, the V&A museum focuses on craftmanship. Art made with care, with tools, with effort put into it. Is this just a lone random exhibition at V&A, or are the current trends actually going towards a revival of skill? Revival of McGuyverism – examining objects, seeing how they can be worked on to produce something else, and then applying the skill? Also, the exhibition encourages people to obtain skills – perhaps as a carryover from postmodern idea that ‘everyone’s an artist’.
Looking around you may see more examples of this kind, not just in the V&A. For example, Pål Rodenius with his 2440x 1220 Saw, Assemble, where the whole artwork is a sheet of plywood with instructions how to cut seven different pieces of furniture out of it. Or take Christoph Thetards R2B2 kitchen appliance unit, where only three different appliances are to do all the tasks in the kitchen. This unit is human-powered by pedaling instead of electricity. This makes the user perform something themselves instead of just pushing a button. And, according to the artist, it actually works.
Both artworks are beautiful, simple, inspiring. They make me think of Aristotle’s four causes describing how objects undergo change. There is causa materialis, the raw material and causa formalis, the object’s form. These are then, through a transformation process called causa efficieus, made into causa finalis, the final product. The postmodern times were all about the causa finalis. The product mattered, not the process of getting there. Cheap things made in China, no matter if they last or not, just as long as they look nice when you buy them. The materials weren’t particularly valued, nor the form, nor the process of producing it.
In contrast, Pal Rodenius’ work can be seen as a tribute to causa formalis and efficieus. One sheet of plywood is there, constituting the causa materialis, and while you certainly can appreciate it as such, most of us do not find plywood so special. The focus is not in the final product either; when you look at the final cause, the finished product, it has a certain crudeness and simplicity over it. While it also may be considered aesthetically pleasing, you just might not use the word “spectacular”, or “breathtaking”. However, all the criss-crossing lines make you see the potential in it, the potential of causa formalis. What’s special about this plywood plank is that around it is a nimbus of all the potential it can turn into. There is excitement and thrill about “rolling your sleeves” upon examining this artwork. This is the causa efficieus, the moving cause. Dynamics of creation.
Similarly, considering Thetards R2B2, the object makes you think about using it, how it’ll be in action. This artwork’s causa efficieus is in the idea of grinding beans by pressing the pedal. Even here is a nimbus of movement, work, creation.
(Inspiration for this article: iconeye.com)