Furniture Design Award: Fly

‘"FLY", the theme of Singapore Furniture Industries Council's 2006 Furniture Design Award (FDA), encourages participants in the Students & Young Designers category to cross creative and cultural boundaries, and produce innovative concepts that are truly in a class of their own.’

Most would agree with me, that the Bauhaus School (1919 – 1933), led by Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, was one of the most influential factions synonymous with the avant-garde. These Bauhaus architects with their purists’ aesthetics concepts and went on to spawn an international ‘style’ in architecture and design, that is beginning to see its philosophy, aesthetics and political modernism even in tropical, otherwise post-war utilitarian Singapore.

The Bauhaus School, as we are led to believe, deem that there is no difference between the craftsman or craftswoman, and the artist. Artists look at the creative products of designers for inspiration, and vice versa.

Thus this exhibition, the Furniture Design Award with the theme of FLY, under the giant umbrella theme of ‘Hybrid Composite’ seem appropriate to acknowledge the believe of the Bauhaus, and exhibited at in an art gallery. Art and Design ‘products’ seem to share more similarities, bridged by our own shifting, blurring, expanding definitions of ‘craft’. Ask the average art student, the elements and principles of art and design are often used synonymously, and universally to critique, appreciate or reject. I am going to assume here, that it was a deliberate attempt to discuss or suggest that art and design were to be criticized, when placed in the arena of the art gallery for public viewing.

From the visual arts perspective, the artworks on display mostly fail to tackle the theme on ‘fly’ on a psychological AND social level. Most are happy to play with the form and shape of wings, imaginary lines that will excite anyone familiar with air-waves in relation to Bernoulli’s principle reacting over ‘wings of an aircraft’. From the design perspective, I shall not claim expertise, one work are largely constrain and constipated by colour and fluffy material; some are obviously not functional and remind myself how useless I was at school for design assignments.


The work “Flap Flap”, by Han Kian Siew seem most adequate to be discussed here from the visual arts, and design perspective. Crudely put by me in words, its function is as an artwork and coffee table. The title is rather kiddy and colloquial; the aesthetics of it is serial in its composition of multiple discs arranged in a grid. Two such discs defy the uniformity of the grid and emerge from the rest like butterflies above a sea of flattened thistles. The moment is frozen like a photograph; it seems to be quite metaphorical of two butterflies eloping, or representational of two great minds in conversation at a coffee table for two. Any outsider seemed unimportant to the two butterflies. And perhaps the judges for the Furniture Design Award deemed this gesture against uniformity unimportant too. From a certain perspective, they look like spinning saucers on a stick, and I’m wondering if designers are like the acrobats, balancing meaning, design principles and whether being revolutionary means throwing everything into the wall and calling it performance art. Maybe two saucers decided to transform and fly away, much like the fantasy flight sequence in Terry Gilliam’s cult movie ‘Brazil’ (1985).  I am worried that it would need great deft and concentration to perch the coffee or tea cups and saucers on these discs.


To many design fanatics, design is art, if not an art of living. Things surrounding us should be pretty, tasteful, somewhat functional and inspirational. I cannot imagine cleaning ‘Flap Flap’ once a week, after dust has settled on every nook and cranny. But I can imagine staring at it on long days and cleaning it as a ritual of existence.


2.5 of 5 stars

 Singapore Furniture Industries Council
15 Apr – 1 May 06, Sat-Mon, Jendela  

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