A couple of years ago (when ‘the improvised life’ was just an idea), we stumbled on this picture of Tobias Wong‘s file cabinet bed in Reference Library, and bookmarked it, thinking we’d write a post about it someday. It is such a great, direct idea, with many possibilities for implementing in different ways. But we didn’t think then to follow the little link below the photo, to Wong’s website, brokenoff.com where we would have seen just what a gifted designer and conceptual artist he was. We discovered this in the saddest way possible: reading in the New York Times of Wong’s recent death at thirty-five.
Wong’s work was very much about mocking the pretensions of “great design” in thoughtful, clever, often angry ways. He famously hacked – and mocked – the work of other designers – to their outrage – for his creations. He coined the word “paraconceptual” to describe his work. “When I do pull a prank, it’s my means of sending out a conceptual idea. It’s not just laughing at them.” Although he didn’t like being called a designer, all of his work had the grace and harmony of good design, while pushing you to think or experience things in a new way, like his Stoop Installation:
“Loose river pebbles were used as the foundation for this stoop design. The pebbles were intentionally chosen for their unsettling quality as customers temporarily lost/shifted their balance upon step (especially those with high-heels which sunk deep into the stones). Thus, causing a minor distraction simulating a ‘cleansing of the palette’ between the exterior and interior space.”
…and his Room Partition made of stacked window fans:
“Freestanding and modular with industrial cable ties as fasteners”
…and a one-size-fits-all computer screen cover made from an Issy Miyake dress (with its famously stretchable pleated synthetic fabric):
…and capsules filled with silver leaf:
“Pure silver passes straight through the body and ends up in your stool – resulting in sparkly shit !
( who says everything has been designed?)”
We wish we could ask Wong about his defiance of the idea that if you do what your heart tells you, and stay true to yourself, things will eventually come: “…that’s bullshit,” he told an interviewer. “It’s all about strategies and risks.”
…We’ve often thought that staying true to yourself and doing what your heart tell you IS all about strategies and risk…