Useless, beautiful, horrific, political

Matthew Israel
Jun 13, 2013 1:38PM

I keep coming back to Jeremy Hutchinson's series of Incorrectly manufactured objects.  

Inspired by stories of horrific working conditions in China, in particular an anecdote he had heard in which a factory worker made intentional mistakes in order to find a moment’s rest—Hutchinson reached out to factories around the world with a peculiar request: asking workers to create a version of the product they make every day with an error that makes it useless. 

The resulting “products” include a double-sided tennis racquet, sunglasses which refuse a nose’s entry (via nose-bridge to nose-end grating), a shovel with its handle reversed, a saw with its teeth in the wrong place, a soccer ball with some panels flipped inside-out, a leadless pencil, a pipe with a solid bowl, a golf club twisted over itself, and a cheese grater with no holes.

Like the works of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, these objects are at once beautiful but also political. (A very difficult thing to pull off, since we usually ask of our political art to shun beauty.) Some of these objects—the golf club and the saw—are more violent than others—the Moleskine notebook or the pipe. However all of them are objects neutered of their function, which is a rejection of their sole reason for existence and the perfection of mass production.

Another way to look at these is the objectification of the duality of manufacturing for the West: we consume perfect objects at the expense of horrors—which increase as our demands increase. While these objects' errors might appear to be small, and somewhat humorous (reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s readymades), the motivation and the backstory behind them is shocking, as these items probably could have come from factories like Tazreen Fashions in Bangladesh.

Matthew Israel
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019