The exhibition and archive DIY is interested in all kinds of production, from the simplest gesture to the most technologically sophisticated or conceptual object. An assumption the exhibition is keen to undo is that home-made, amateur design is necessarily rudimentary, basic and somehow ‘honest’ in its simplicity (though we love these examples too) and that finish, ornament and synthetic material is the preserve of mass-production. The increasing availability of advanced materials and processes to non-professionals is one thing that blurs these boundaries – and making one’s own artefacts also allows one to go beyond straightforward functionality and ‘good design’, allowing for ‘excess’ and the exploration of concerns that might be hard to find in mainstream design. The references below show a wide range of possibilities.
Prisoners’ Inventions (2003) by Temporary Services and Angelo, published by White Walls
The Interventionists – Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life (2004) by Nato Thompson & Gregory Sholette, published by MIT Press – the catalogue to the exhibition The Interventionists at the MASSMoCA which frames many contemporary interventionist art projects such as Michael Rakowitz’s paraSITE.
Return to Function (2009) curated by Jane Simon, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art – (the catalogue to the exhibition includes some good essays on the role of functionality in art).
Hertzian Tales (2005) by Anthony Dunne, published by MIT Press, and Design Noir (2001) by Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, published by Birkhauser – the influential designers and academics responsible for the notion of ‘critical design’, ‘design fiction’, ‘material tales’ and more. Their website at dunneandraby.com has a lot of content, and I see there are some lo-fi pdfs of chapters from Hertzian Tales floating around online…
Chindogu! One of the funnest forms of homemade invention or grassroots design, the Japanese hobby form of ‘chindogu’, which translates as ‘unuseless invention’:
‘The planets formed. The Earth cooled. Creatures emerged and one of them started playing with rocks and sticks. That creature made spears, he crafted shovels, he turned pelts into cloth. Then, he got fancy. He built the solar-powered flashlight and the combination table napkin/necktie. Not exactly useful, but somehow not altogether useless. He created inventions that didn’t quite work…but were nonetheless fun. Chindogu was born’