A Pile of Suitcases

We’ve spent so much time focusing on National Design Week in the United States, we’re ashamed to say we’ve forgotten about some important events overseas. Now showing as part of Dutch Design Week, the graduate show at Design Academy Eindhoven includes Maarten De Ceulaer’s A Pile of Suitcases. Designer de Ceulaer graduated in 2008, and already his Pile of Suitcases is garnering lots of attention.

A Pile of Suitcases. Designed by Maarten De Ceulaer.

While the project seems simple enough–a wardrobe made from a grouping of suitcases–it evinces de Ceulaer’s peculiar philosophy of combining the poetic with the practical: “I try to base my designs on a strong, simple and pure concept… to question what I see around me, and translate that in an object. I think poetry, humour and communication of ideas are very important aspects of my designs, but at the same time I want to make useful and functional objects with that way of thinking.” A Pile of Suitcases wardrobe comes with “well-measured compartments” and “steel profiles [that] keep the pile firmly together.” In its construction, the piece responds to the very real needs of its user.

A Pile of Suitcases

The idea behind A Pile of Suitcases is rather droll, as it takes an everyday object and multiplies it, thereby transforming it into a second familiar object. This marriage of the familiar (material) with the unfamiliar (treatment/assemblage) reminds me of Wallace Stevens’ poetry–with whom de Ceulaer may have more in common than at first glance. Both “poets” (of words, of objects) betray our trust in a fantastic way, surprising us with the juxtaposition of components (of words, of objects), as opposed to the unusualness of the parts themselves. And so we have lines like “to dream of baboons and periwinkles,” wherein the art is achieved through the unusual combination of the everyday (after all, there is nothing particularly challenging with Strevens’ diction, baboons and periwinkles being familiar terms). Good art should shock us into re-seeing what we pass by in the automatism of perception; it should encourage defamiliarization (Modernist critic Shklovsky’s term). De Ceulaer’s A Pile of Suitcases does just this.

Surreal and real, A Pile of Suitcases showcases an up-and-coming designer’s keen ability to meld functionality and play. If we could go back in time, De Ceulaer’s wardrobe should inhabit the pages of Alice in Wonderland. For now, it should at least be featured in the next David Lynch film.

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