Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2016

100 Chairs in 100 Days, Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2016

0 Comments 16 March 2016

100 Chairs in 100 Days
RMIT Design Hub
Review by Jessica Gregory

In the heart of the Melbourne CBD at the RMIT Design Hub, there is a spectacle to behold in the form of Martino Gamper’s culturally reflective exhibition. The multi-disciplinary designer hailing from Italy has brought with him his internationally acclaimed travelling project, 100 Chairs in 100 Days. The title explains the basic premise of the project; Gamper has indeed made 100 chairs within the restricted time of 100 days. However, there are many more fascinating details to uncover about Gamper’s ethics and design practice than the title facilitates.

The exhibition space at the RMIT Design Hub is open and high-ceilinged. At first, it seems as though a Wizard-of-Oz-esque tornado has whizzed through the vast floor space, scattering objects in its wake; a guitar and a bike seat here, a floating apparatus over there. In truth, these ‘found objects’ are what make up the bodies of Gamper’s vastly different chairs. The chairs are so completely unique that they are only united in the fact that they can all function as a chair (although visitors are carefully instructed not to test this out). Viewers are free to navigate their own way through the maze of chairs, marvelling at the sensational imagination of the artist behind them. Gamper makes all original pre-conceptions of what constitutes a chair fly quickly out of the window.

Why chairs? A chair seems like something practical, with its primary feature lying not in aesthetics or ornamentation but in its functionality as a seat. Gamper, however, considers the chair differently. In the event program, the exhibition curator Fleur Watson interviews Gamper who elaborates on the meaning of the chair; “It holds our weight and responds to our bodies, it can become symbolic of who we are, […] our style, age and preferences.” Gamper’s chairs contain even more hidden meaning due to the fact that they are completely made up of found, disregarded objects, including old chairs.

This brings up the next theme engrained so eloquently within Gamper’s work: the importance of the process. By using thrown-out old chairs, Gamper is able to deconstruct the chair or object, discover its initial construction and purpose and then re-contextualise this information within his own parameters. His work consequently becomes traceable, making the process equal in importance to the final product. This idea is reflected within the exhibition space where, above the sea of chairs, hangs a screen showing footage of Gamper during the creation process.

It is interesting to consider Gamper’s show under the umbrella of VAMFF. In using found objects and providing them with new life, Gamper is exploring the significance of the cyclical opposites of old and new and making and un-making. In discussing these dualities he references the entire concept of fashion (not simply clothing) and in particular, the issue of fast-fashion and consumerism. Gamper touches upon this aspect of his work, stating; “As consumers, we buy, use and then – when we find something we like better – we release objects for new ones. Chairs seem to go through this evolution very quickly.”

Prior to its display in Melbourne, 100 Chairs in 100 Days has travelled through countries including England, Japan, Greece and France and at each stop Gamper gifted his final personalised flourish; the 100th chair. Each 100th chair is influenced by the city in which it is created and now Melbourne has one of its own. Sticking with his ‘found object’ approach, Gamper called upon the local community to hand over their pre-loved objects to be re-interpreted and immortalised within the chair. Melbourne’s own 100th chair consists of a timber and steel spine (courtesy of a Presbyterian parish in Williamstown), legs and a back from a damaged plywood chair (thanks to local architect, Sean Godsell) and a wooden seat sourced from offcuts found at RMIT University.

Gamper has woven an incredible tale within his 100 chairs that needs to be told. Tomorrow as you go to throw out your old newspaper or disregard your worn-out t-shirt, think about Martino Gamper and make a ‘chair’ (or a hundred) for yourself.

100 Chairs in 100 Days runs until 9 April 2016 at the RMIT Design Hub. More details here.

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