Ka-Lai Chan’s Selfportrait Reveals Knotty (Naughty) Psyche

If you based a psychoanalytic examination on the individual work of any designer, you’d think the world was inhabited by crazies. Such is the case with the chair known as Selfportrait, the brainchild (in more ways than one) of Ka-Lai Chan, recent graduate of the School of Arts in Utrecht. Conceived as her graduation project, Selfportrait interprets Chan’s “emotions and suppressed feelings.”

Selfportrait. Designed by Ka-Lai Chan.

She explains: “In the past I have always found myself to be a quiet and introvert person. I suppressed my own emotions and didn’t dare to show my feelings to other people. I was afraid that people will find me weird if I show them the real me. It felt like there was something growing on me what gets bigger and bigger like a tumor.” Understandably then, the Selfportrait chair does indeed seem to be sprouting lumps. Its black upholstery is further diseased with large white spots. Chan believes in experimentation, which is “how unique and creative products are brought to daylight.” From a Freudian viewpoint, Selfportrait frees the designer’s repressed emotions from the dark dungeon they had been previously locked inside. They have been “brought to daylight” then. The question that remains is should they have been delivered into the light? The unusual Selfportrait is uncomfortable to look at, uncomfortable to sit on (I imagine), and uncomfortable to ponder (the psychological implications being disturbing). But discomfort is often a primary indication of true invention, if not progress.




Should you want to consider these questions further, you can do so in close proximity to Chan’s Selfportrait—if you happen to be in The Netherlands. Her chair is being shown at Dutch Design Double, the celebration of Dutch design that takes place in Amsterdam and Utrecht from the 4th of September until the 11th of October 2009.

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