Friday, 21 August 2009

William Morris House

I went to William Morris House today and enjoyed it greatly. Located in Walthamstow, NE London it is the house which Morris moved to as a boy with his mother and siblings after his fathers death. the exhibition is a chronological journey through his life - work, politics and relationships. It also has some beautiful Arts and Crafts furniture and paintings by Frank Brangwyn. Coming up in October is a Thomas Wardle textile exhibition.

I feel the Arts and Crafts movement was the first vocaliser of the need for Slow design, or at least slowness, I also think the tenet of having beautiful, meaningful things for functional purposes was very important ("Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful" - William Morris) and is something we could think more about now. The ability to think through purchases and our wants to decipher what they really are appears to have left us.

Looking at Baudrillard's work has left me thinking this: We have lost the ability to think clearly about the Functional Value (its actual purpose), Exchange Value (how much it costs) and even, to an extent, the Symbolic Value (what it means to us emotionally, and what it means to us in relation to another item) and left us only with the Sign Value (status value) of our purchases and lifestyles. There is a certain amount of emotion involved with status, but it is of a different sort to traditional symbolism in my opinion. We buy so fast it leaves us we no time to become involved with what we own, and we are busy keeping up with the trends, fashions adverts, upgrades and latest releases that newness becomes the imperative. Designers follow this same path to keep and and indeed create this newness, thus dismissing the need to think, engage and involve ourselves with what we make in order to keep on schedule and in doing so we create a vicious circle of unloved designs becoming unloved purchases, replaced quickly with new unloved purchases made from unloved designs.

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