Trip to V&A – Modernities aboundeth

Had a working from home day and spent the afternoon at the V&A fuelling more thoughts on a presumably upcoming article/talk on digital materiality.

Ventured to the rapid response and modernist collections which I don’t often do. There’s always something fun about analysing the material product through the theoretical framework of the designer/maker in question.

A photo of the display of 'The Toaster Project' by Thomas Thwaite. There is a homemade toaster and the associated casing. Around it are all the tools used to create the casing, to smelt the metals and so on.Really dug Thomas Thwaites ‘The toaster project’. Design often obscures the truth about thermodynamic symmetry – that time and effort saved at one end of a process will incur a cost at another. This is one reason why the question of ethical design or ethical tech is either insultingly trivial or stereotypically complex – the time saved in a washing machine (for example) is taken in the form of excavating, purifying and shaping metal ores to provide circuit components. To reiterate a question asked at Sheffield’s doc fest panel, asking whether a particular example of tech is ethical requires a strong stomach.

The conservation of energy has financial as well as work-based components. The fact that a cheap toaster costs £120k to reproduce by hand speaks volumes about the hidden siphonings throughout the process.

For a while now I’ve been wanting to take a practical craft course, or something in industrial design or a civil engineering course. Seeing this portrait reminded me to look into wax printing, especially given a soon-to-be-confirmed half-commission for a new piece.


A black and white photo of a jewellers shop (called Saqui and Company) front. The selSomething about a shop specialising in ‘Lucky wedding’ rings put me suddenly in mind of a Diana Wynne Jones novel.

Eileen Gray – ‘…she put into practice her belief that human needs’ should guide the designer. ‘The art of the engineer’ was not enough’.

Also hurrah for another queer woman designer 😀

Frank Lloyd Wright – something interesting about notion of Organic architecture – that objects should somehow reflect/complement their built environment? From a digital perspective where digital is a material put to pernicious use, I’m put in mind of the folkloric concept of complementary plants wherein things that grew alongside known poisons, irritants could provide immunity to them. What in the organic architecture of digital service design, would be the equivalent if digital is the nettle?

Also some Eamesian goodness which is always nice to include.

There were some really intriguing specimens from 18th century which are over on ‘The Very Devils’ research blog.

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