John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Chilean artist Sebastian Errazuriz hopes that the 1 percent will enjoy this unusual furniture.
I'm struggling to think of the conceptual opposite of these $2,500 Occupy Wall Street chairs, designed by Chilean artist Sebastian Errazuriz for the posh homes of the 1 percent. A Louis Vuitton-patterned sleeping bag? A bong in the shape of Bernie Madoff's head? It's hard.
Errazuriz, the originator of a host of strange objects from anatomical cutting boards to a handy “Cocaine Slab,” created the plywood folding chairs using text pulled from the angry signs of protesters. Flattened out, they are hangable works of art that recreate one of several spittle-spraying messages – for example, "Kill corporate greed," "Hungry? Eat a banker" and "I'm so angry I made a sign.” (Not making an appearance: "Bring back Crystal Pepsi!") Locked into place, they allow bankers and art collectors to take a load off while sipping VSOP and chatting about rich-people things. Like OWS-inspired furniture, for instance.
Errazuriz wants civil agitators to actually use his furniture. Occupying is much easier, after all, when you have a place to sit. But with a $2,500 price tag per chair, there's not much of a chance of that happening. So Errazuriz has slipped a secondary purpose into the art, which he describes in a statement this way:
“The artist wishes to support the 99% by inviting collectors (representing the 1%) to purchase the complaints as art or furniture, thus introducing the ideas of one group into the homes of another and at the same time getting the rich to support the cause of the 99%.”
As a double-sided mirror the Occupy Chairs also explore the potential for these complaints against the richest one percent to be transformed into glamorous fashionable catch phrases in design-art pieces that celebrate the exclusive luxury market.
While the idea isn't as outrageous as using actual protesters as furniture – that concept will no doubt make the gallery circuit soon – it does have a nice bite. The discerning public seems to think so, too, snapping up a dozen of the chairs on the New York Armory Show's first day. Today, perhaps they are resting near other consumer products inspired by the Occupy movement, such as coffee mugs, earrings and doggie T-shirts.