Monday, May 19, 2008

a different view...

george nelson photograph of a subscape3

george nelson photograph of a subscape2

george nelson photograph of a subscape

george nelson writes about discovering "the new subscape" by rolling off the couch to pick up a fallen magazine and noticing how different chairs look when one is lying on the floor looking up at them instead of standing or sitting and looking down. nelson provides his own dictionary definition for the term as: "view of the furnishings of an interior, ranging upwards from the floor to the height of a chair seat or at most the underside of a table...the lowest zone within a room, averaging thirteen inches in depth and never more than twenty-eight inches..."

nelson goes on to talk about this first moment as a kind of epiphany, for as a furniture designer (and architect, writer, teacher, industrial designer, etc.) he had never thought much about the view of a chair from the ground up. he continues, "the subscape unfolds its manifold wonders in a zone of nearly total invisibility... i stared about me bemused by the view as a visitor from mars... (from) a region of whose existence i had almost been totally unaware..."

eventually he goes back into the zone with his camera to photograph what he sees, and discusses "the value in the shock that comes with seeing familiar objects from a strange point of view... is still one of the most potent and least-used tools in the design process". he then compares the subscape view to skyscrapers, connecting the aesthetics of current (1950) furniture design to current architecture, and suggests that this lower interior subscape as an aesthetic equivalent to the designed upper exterior landscape.

many years ago, when i first discovered nelson's work of the 40's and 50's; i was immediately attracted to his furniture designs; but as i eventually discovered his writings, i found them quite inspiring. nelson not only approached design with a set of ethics that involved curiosity and experimentation; but his way of looking at the world seemed very much connected to rilke's ideas regarding "inconsiderable things".

rilke says: "if you have this love of inconsiderable things and seek quite simply, as one who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier, more coherent and somehow more conciliatory for you, not in your intellect, perhaps, which lags marveling behind, but in your inmost consciousness, waking and cognizance."

by simply lying on the floor to see the underside of tables and chairs, one begins to see the old as the new, and the ordinary as the extraordinary. the familiar becomes the unfamiliar, and something seemingly empty is suddenly full of potential and inspiration. clearly, the designer had the perception of the poet.

for years i've made recordings in architectural spaces by closing my eyes and letting the sounds suggest movements of my hands holding a pencil or ink on paper. experiencing architecture with ears, sends one inside of a different kind of subscape, an inscape perhaps; and similarly suggests the potential of a different view. at one point i used a nelson designed bubble lamp to generate a soundwork, plucking and rubbing its surface and interior like an instrument, for a work titled "a subscape of resonance".

perhaps, like view, there is are also different ways with objects, and beyond normal use, there is a kind of "sub-use". as one may see things from different angles, one might also handle things in unintended ways, toward unintended uses - a new use disconnected from intentions, towards a new way of seeing, hearing, or holding. there is much poetry to be found in quiet anarchy...

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Blogger Woolgathersome said...

Wonderful post! Reminds me of the "inconsiderable things" and the invisible in In Praise of Shadows...

8:01 AM  
Blogger Ryan Callis said...

Oh has this post opened up a new and wonderful world for me. I had never read Rilke before and I am now reading his Letters to a Young Poet, and this post lead me to it. Amazing things, it was very much meant to be. Thank you for being a conduit of radness.

1:05 PM  

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