Temple of Manufacturing
Presented by Storefront for Art and Architecture in collaboration with COMPANY (Aamu Song & Johan Olin).
In the 1950s, in the midst of modern discourse regarding industrial design, Charles and Ray Eames aimed to produce “the best, for the most, for the least.” More than fifty years later, global processes of mass production have complicated the democratic aspirations that the Eames sought to espouse.
In our current interdependent global economy, the designations “Designed by X,” “Made by X,” “Manufactured by X,” “Made in X,” and “Product of X” are increasingly complex. While their origins are based in trade agreements and intellectual property rights, they also carry the weight of serving as symbols of economic protectionism, human exploitation, and ecological malpractice, among other issues.
Recently, we have witnessed the re-emergence of more “localized” forms of production. Handmade items, arts and crafts, and light manufacturing have made a resurgence in our contemporary product-based markets. Among the reasons for this include responses against the perils of global mass production, reactions to the consumerist philosophies of the 80s and 90s, and the preservation of manufacturing processes and their associated identities of place. Combined with increasing preferences and desires for “artisanal” and “local” goods, these phenomena have changed the way we make things.
Temple of Manufacturing presents COMPANY’s long-term project: SECRETS. Traveling to remote sites around the world to learn crafting processes unique to particular industries and places, the duo (comprised of Aamu Song and Johan Olin) has collaborated over the last decade with a variety of communities to rethink the very processes and knowledge embedded in these places. Applying this knowledge to new and unexpected designs, COMPANY’s work creates an intersection between the mastery of traditional technique and the invention of a new, poetic, and personal material and object-specific vocabulary.
For the installation at Storefront, COMPANY presents its own Temple of Manufacturing, an installation that reflects the feeling of sacredness that the duo encountered while visiting spaces of production all over the world. Raw materials, drawings, objects, designs, and process documents are presented alongside a series of frescoes painted in situ that narrate some of the journeys, topics, and works that structure their research.
Temple of Manufacturing presents objects conceived and produced as composite figures from COMPANY’s own design methods and their trips to Japan, Russia, Finland, Estonia, and the Amish communities of Pennsylvania. Part an artist’s travel log, part a sanctuary for the maker’s masters, and somewhere between an archive, an exhibition, and a store (the ultimate temple of contemporary capitalism) the installation reflects upon “the aura of the work of art” (in this case, the design object), and the hidden processes of design research as related to manual versus mechanized production.