A Chair Walks into a Bar…


31 October 2017

“Oh-oh, I can’t see anything. Can someone help me?” says Kathrine Barbro Bendixen’s Inside Out lamp, a tangled design made from 50m of cleaned, inflated intestines taken from a single cow. Two eye-like lights on Renske Rothuizen’s chemistry kit-like Lemonade Factory click on. “I may have a solution,” says Lemonade Factory, “but it will take a while.” Lemonade Factory immediately begins making lemonade to no obvious purpose. “Oh shit,” concludes Inside Out.

This is one of the scenarios explored within Object Interview, a series of films developed by the designer Alexandre Humbert. The series places objects into dialogue with one another in a bid to explore the narratives encoded within such designs, as well as the fresh narratives which might be gleaned through their use. Now numbering five films in total, Object Interview has today launched as an online platform.

“Object Interview isn’t focusing on the story or process of an object,” says Humbert. “It’s about the post-process after an object is born, and what is happening in its daily life. The designer creates an object and then I try to find its personality.” 

Developed after Humbert’s graduation from Design Academy Eindhoven’s Contextual Design MA in 2013, the project is intended as a way of expanding discourse around design and allowing for a more holistic engagement with the designed environment. “One interesting thing is the relation between a dead and a living object,” says Humbert. “The moment you start to interact with an object – it could be the way you look at it, sit on it, or whatever – you start to give life to something that is otherwise inanimate.”

In one of the films, Tuomas Markunpoika’s Engineering Temporality – a chair made out of tubular steel rings – is transformed from an object of physical frailty and insecurity, to one of emotional insecurity. “I am not perfect. Sometimes I can be unstable, selfish and dirty,” states Engineering Temporality, before building to a climactic declaration that is simultaneously melancholic and uplifting. Meanwhile, Sejoon Kim’s Cute stool, an assessment of how cuteness is a socio-political construct, is joined by Tim Vanlier’s Blauw delftware in a military-style march: “Up in the morning to the rising mist. [Repeat]. Cute designs have a dark twist.”

Throughout Humbert’s films, which he executes in collaboration with composers, graphic designers, and other contributors, the objects remain static beyond  their natural range of movement (Lemonade Factory can make lemonade, but nothing else), with dynamism delivered through the film’s soundtrack and cuts between wide shots and up-close details. The narratives that emerge are naturalistic and, importantly, replicable: Object Interview provides a toolset or methodology through which viewers might be able to connect to objects in their own lives. 

“Objects have stories to tell, but there are a lot of ways of telling those stories,” says Humbert. “If you look at the traditional museum setting of having an object with information that gives a date, who made it, the material and stuff like that – I don’t think anybody cares! People care about the emotions that an object can really produce in their daily lives. I thought it was important to bring back attention to objects that people don’t look at in this way.”

In this sense, Object Interview is a necessary act of excavation and elucidation. The application of narrative to designed objects, and the suggestion of their interior life, provides a new way of coming to terms with the richness of the world around us. By granting objects a voice,  Humbert sheds considerable light on their interactions – verbal and otherwise – with all that surrounds them.