If you’re familiar with fellow 3ringer Alicita’s posts, you know of her affection for work from the Netherlands. She and the Dutch seem to have a relationship of grudging admiration and mutual sarcasm (she thinks their innovative designs are part of a secret plot for global domination, or, as she says in her recent post on Maarten Baas, “Design Miami named Maarten Baas Designer of the Year this 2009, which fulfills my belief that The Netherlands is plotting to take over the world, one piece of design at a time.” What, then, might she say about Wouter Scheublin’s Walking Table for Priveekollektie?
Walking Table. Designed by Wouter Scheublin.
Being that I was standing right next to her when she first witnessed the piece, I can attest that she found it quintessentially Dutch—singularly functional and aesthetically innovative, possessed of the kind of alluring strangeness that produces strong opinions. (Of course, she didn’t offer her reaction until after berating both designer and manufacturer for having too many clumsy consonants in their names, not to mention cautioning the white tunic-clad exhibitor that, while in Miami, he might be mistaken for a Santero.)
While I disagree that the Dutch have such ambitious geo-political aspirations, I concur that Dutch design is often a love it or hate it affair. One need only consult the work by such post-modern mainstays as Breaded Escalope, Droog, and Studio JSPR to check the accuracy of this assertion. As regards the Walking Table—of which one critic has said “a perfect example of a horrible idea, poorly executed… the clunky monstrosity doesn’t so much walk as shudder and lurch”—I see it as perfectly representative of the spirit of the event. In a venue where the design/art divide (or can we call it “intersection”?) is celebrated by the humorous aside and the self-referential gesture, we need not take ourselves so seriously.
Is the piece a horrible idea? Of course not, what space wouldn’t profit from greater portability of its furnishings? Is it poorly executed? No. Designer Scheublin is very much aware of the table’s aesthetic, and I’d submit that he’d actually relish the description of the table’s locomotion and the subsequent comparison to Mary Shelley’s famous monster. But such carping is really beside the point. The Walking Table does what it sets out to do while sporting a look that may alienate some but will definitely enchant others. The eager throngs snapping pics and taking videos as our tunic-clad friend demonstrated how it works is a testament to the attraction.
If, however, you’re of morbid disposition and prone to ask whether anyone will actually purchase it, I can only say that’s a different question for a different time. I suspect, however, that if furnishings like The Walking Table are ever to discover a niche, it will probably be at Design Miami.