Investigations in Toasting I


9 January 2017

Last autumn, to commemorate Disegno's fifth birthday, nine designers were invited to update the ritual of toasting for contemporary society. The result, published in Disegno #12, was a series of new typologies of communal celebration that blend function, ritual, symbolism and social critique.

There are few occasions more suited to toasting than the passing of a new year. It is also the occasion on which toasting has the most immaterial subject: on a birthday, you toast an individual; whereas holiday celebrations often have culturally-mandated hierarchies and a specific subject to toast. But as the New Year begins, and people around the world toast as their clocks strike 12, the glasses raised celebrate not a family member or a long-dead saint but the passage of time itself.

To mark the beginning of 2017, Disegno is delighted to publish a series of short reflections from the designers that participated in the project. Below Emilie Baltz, Matali Crasset and Felipe Ribon discuss their designs.

Emilie Batz

Emilie Batz is a New York-based food designer. Her proposal, #Toastie, sees participants switch on their phone's record function, preferably with a slow motion effect activated, and point their cameras at one another. The phones are then clinked together, with the ensuring video uploaded to social media.

My approach was rather dystopian and speculative. We’re increasingly distancing ourselves from ourselves through our devices. In America you’re surrounded by mass media at all times, it feels like a drug. Drinking and toasting reflect that. Toasting is an absurd thing, without true function, but it does have stimulation, pleasure, connection. Our interactions are now in a digital space and it’s there that these feelings are now most clearly expressed. The most natural thing for this project felt like making this ridiculous fist bump of a phone movie.

I also kept thinking about what happens to the human body as we move forward, because we’re obviously changing form. If disembodiment occurs, could a being become another type of being? Could we be the toast? I did many toasts on myself; taping the phone to myself, bobbing up and down as if I were the glass. I felt I would want to feel the clinking if I were the cup. It comes from a question of disembodiment and our evolution as humans. Interactions are nothing more than choreographies.

Batz's design is illustrated in the gallery above.

Matali Crasset re-imagined the toast as an architectural model, based on Charlotte Perriand's unbuilt 1924 Miami beach house. ILLUSTRATION Liam Cobb.

Matali Crasset

The Paris-based product designer Matali Crasset's proposal aims to embody toasting in an architectural context. Drawing upon Charlotte Perriand's unrealised 1934 Miami beach house, it features a tripartite structure in which three units open out onto a central space. The structure is thus activated by shared experience.

I once visited an exhibition of Charlotte Perriand's work that was about two small houses. She used the door of a garage to create a common area, a kind in-between space. The house was recently re-done but that element was forgotten. For me it was the best idea in the project. The centre of my structure is made from tables, as tables are necessary for sharing meals. I live in a factory and there’s a courtyard in the centre where everyone shares meals and provides tables. This is the same idea. If you want to live there, it’s because you want to share. It’s a proposition to know others better and be more open to them.

The toast is just a moment and something quite short. I wanted to enlarge the moment of the toast and bring its ideology into daily life. It’s a proposal about how we might organise spaces. At present, you have private spaces and public spaces, but that division needn’t be retained. Things can be conceived differently.

Felipe Ribon adapted a folk story in which four animal spirits make up alcohol, and represent a stage of drunkenness. ILLUSTRATION Liam Cobb

Felipe Ribon

The Franco-Columbian designer Felipe Ribon proposed an adaptation of an old folk story, in which alcohol contains the spirits of four animals. Each one - the goat, lion, monkey and pig - represents a successive stage of drunkenness.

I am currently working on superstitious belief and see that as a starting point for design; how the stories and superstitions that we tell each other are interesting and how we relate to them even if they’re very old. My design is based on a particularly old story and that’s why it’s a little strange. I’ve heard the story since I was a kid and I’ve transformed it into my own.

The story is about four ghosts that are within every alcohol. When you drink the alcohol you get the ghosts’ spirit. The first spirit that manifests is the goat, which is when you have one drink and become tranquil and calm. Then you become the lion, it gives you strength and confidence. Then you become the monkey, doing silly stuff and laughing. With the fourth drink you become the hog, a creature that doesn’t move and is under the table. It’s the last stage of the curse.

I liked the idea that spirits are present and the story is there to let us know that they’re haunting us. To prevent ourselves from this curse we get obsessed with these animals. I always thought the toast, with the clinking sound, is to honour. We forget this story and I instead imagined the idea of this unnamed toast. We forget the four animals who died to give us this wine. We’re always thinking about ourselves and not our health and behaviour. I thought it might be a nice gesture to think about them and thank us for giving us this precious gift.

Ribon's poem, the result of his adaption of the old folk story discussed above, can be read below.

It is said that the first vineyard planted by mankind was watered by the devil with the blood of four sacred animals: the goat, the lion, the ape and the hog. The sacrifice transformed the sweet juice into wine.

Ever since, their spirits haunt us ...

To appease their unfortunate souls we continually raise a glass and make a toast in their honour, hoping that the clinking sound will spare us the curse of being permanently possessed.