Earlier this year, Jeremy Hutchison sent emails to manufacturers around the world, asking them to produce a fairly simple and common item. He added a special requirement though: the product had to be imperfect, come with an intentional error. Moreover, the worker was in charge of deciding which kind of error, malfunction or fault he would add to the good. The artist reassured the factory that, whatever the result, he would pay for the faulty object.
The outcome of the experiment is fascinating. Sometimes, the object was shipped in bits and pieces because the worker decided they would simply damage it after fabrication. Most of the time, however, the dysfunctioning good demonstrates the creativity and imagination of men doing repetitive gestures day after day in the factory: a comb without its teeth, a walking stick turned into a nunchaku, a football ball that is anything but round, a pair of sunglasses without the space for the nose, etc. The objects are amusing but they also give their makers/designers a presence and identity they might not normally possess.
Hutchison told Creative Review:
[Err is] about creating deliberate miscommunication, forging a moment of poetry within a hyper-efficient system of digital exchange. It’s about an invisible global workforce, and their connection to the relentless regurgitation of stuff. It’s about Duchamp and the readymade, but updated to exist within the context of today’s globalised economy. It’s about the rub between art and design, the mass-produced and unique, the functional and the dysfunctional.
Hutchison kept track of all the email exchanges, all the skype conversations he had with the people working in the factories. At first, the answers he got expressed bafflement and perplexity.
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Régine Debatty is the creator of the ‘We Make Money Not Art’ blog and an art show curator. She has also spoken at several conferences and festivals about the way artists, hackers and interaction designers (mis)use technology. Learn more about Régine Debatty.