Friday, 20 March 2015

Natural vs. Unnatural

Part of my research into Material & Emotional Value, looking at visceral design.

Recap:  The way we respond to things (outside of culture and emotion) is dictated by our subconscious mind; it tells us when to run away, what to be repulsed by and who to find the most attractive and is hard-wired into every human to try and increase their chances of survival.  These reactions can be broadly grouped into 4 main categories of self-preservation:

Food // Shelter // Danger // Reproduction

What about products that are styles to look natural but don't look quite right?

Liquid_Light: Drop_1 - Büro für Form: Source

There's something off-putting about Büro für Form's Liquid Light.  The lamp is meant to echo the natural form of a water droplet but to me it looks much more anatomical.  The same could be said for Frank Tjepkema's Artificial Plant, though that project was never intended to look natural; actually, Tjepkema wanted quite the opposite.  "...the first artificial plant that is not telling a lie, it's artificial and it's not trying to pretend it's not." (Source)

Artificial Plant, 1996 - Frank Tjepkema: Source

Between the oversized globule made from PE and the punctured latex base of the plastic blades of grass, I begin to feel quite queasy.  This doesn't quite equal disgust, but I feel genuine un-ease at the sight of these products.  In their attempts to resemble nature they appear vulgar and to my mind emphasise nature's most unsavory points.

Ok, so I find these things off-putting, and the more I think about them, the more vulgar I think they are.  The descriptions that form in my head sound a little like this:

Liquid Light: A giant white dripping mucous-like globule, slowly extending it's gelatinous way towards the floor, with a light inside it.
Artificial plant: Translucent brown flesh, sparsely punctured by stiff blades of hair fixed in place by whelts.

It quickly becomes clear that I find these items so unappealing because of the associated imagery they conjure up.  Both remind me of diseased skin, infections and viscous secretions, which all humans are disgusted by as a form of protection.  It's your subconscious telling you not to go near them.  What is interesting is whether or not I am the only person to subconsciously extrapolate these feeling with regards to these products; does everyone feel as put-off as I do? Are they over-riding their danger signals because they know that these plastic objects cannot harm us? Or am I just more sensitive to these things than most?

TL;DR: I don't like these products because they remind me of disgusting things - danger. Does everyone else ignore their repulsion because they know these things are safe?