Exhibition Review: “Jasper Morrison – Thingness” in Zurich
Jasper Morrison’s work represents the reduction in design for daily use, a striving for the essential, the archetypes. This means that Morrison’s customary notion of including enjoyment is often overlooked as was clearly the case with one of his first products, the Thinking Man’s Chair (1986). However, sitting in a relaxed manner is not everything. Having somewhere to put your book or drink, or ash tray and tobacco products or a combination of mental and physical stimulants are a part of it, not as side table offerings, but within chair-arm-designed reach. The minimum is: comfort.
This can now be observed and read about in Zurich because Morrison has commented on his work phases and individual products in his range of work in short texts. Visitors can also take these texts and product illustrations in a free accompanying booklet so they can look at and read about them in comfort, in a place of their choosing.
So far, so good. It is also of note that the show is clearly structured on a shelving framework. But there’s more. For, with this exhibition, the museum begins its series entitled “My Collection” and allows the designer to choose objects from the museum’s own extensive collection, giving a personal view of the archives. This follows the artist’s or director’s choice curations currently so popular, in which subjectivity, vanity and the addiction to originality often enter a misalliance. In Morrison’s case, however, the result is a godsend. For his emphasis, predominantly, but not solely, of taking products from Switzerland, on the one hand corresponds to the collection, but on the other also to Morrison’s design philosophy, at the least postulates solidarity in long-term use. The “usual design” (Friedl/Ohlhauser) is represented by a dustpan as much as high culture is with exhibition posters. Nor is the the cross-border perspective lacking with the folding chair by the Slovenian artist, Niko Kralj, and Japanese poster art. All this is commented on by Morrison, who concedes kindly to gaps in his knowledge in his texts and expresses suppositions (“I wonder why the screws were inserted so close to the switch; perhaps to connect it to an older system.”). Doubt about the actual serviceability persists that then has to be made up for by other qualities (“I am, however, not entirely convinced that the object is very practical, as less than half of its size can be used.”) or points to peculiarities in material (“Surprisingly, the body is made of ceramic, which would be far too expensive nowadays”). Morrison’s way of thinking is thus comprehensible, in a similar way in which images of libraries say something about library owners. There is also a free 40-page accompanying booklet (without images, but then there is the internet after all), that goes some way towards compensating for the museum’s rather high entrance fee (twelve Swiss francs). This booklet also provides the closing quotation that Morrison made concerning Wilhelm Kienzle’s cactus-watering can, but which is also applicable to the Thinking Man’s Chair: “Rationality and poetry do not often share the same bed, and when they do, something like this results as a consequence!”