Misreading : One and Three Chairs


The description of this art work is described as follows in the MOMA website :

“In One and Three Chairs, Joseph Kosuth represents one chair three ways: as a manufactured chair, as a photograph, and as a copy of a dictionary entry for the word “chair.” The installation is thus composed of an object, an image, and words. Kosuth didn’t make the chair, take the photograph, or write the definition; he selected and assembled them together. But is this art? And which representation of the chair is most “accurate”? These open-ended questions are exactly what Kosuth wanted us to think about when he said that “art is making meaning.” By assembling these three alternative representations, Kosuth turns a simple wooden chair into an object of debate and even consternation, a platform for exploring new meanings”

I thought of extending this notion into architecture. As an architect, i could be naive in misreading an ‘object’ from an other field thus adding a new perspective to it. And that is why the title ‘misreading’.

What is that ‘chairness’ which is formed even before it is manifested in these three forms? And what is contaminated in this process of manifestation, in which ‘chairness’ is trying to become an ‘object’, an ‘image’ and ‘words’. Lets see if we can put it an order of dilution : word-image-object, where ‘word’ being closer to ‘chairness’ because it is still in a form of thought. This dilution is what we have been struggling in the architectural design process. Kahn elegantly puts this concern in his essay ‘Form and Design’ that “the first line on paper is already a measure of what cannot be expressed fully.The first line of paper is less”. It is this dilution i am talking about.

How to make the first line less less? Is it possible by grazing more in the meadows of ‘what an object wants to be’ (borrowing from Kahn again) rather than actual design. I think this delay could help. Any delay,which is rigorous, in this age of information is helpful. But what are the questions one is asking in this delayed time. I think the important question would be the need of architecture itself. It is this intellectual discomfort with one’s own medium itself, has created some of the best art like Marcel Duchamp using a mass-produced urinal as a piece of art or Kosuth using three representations of the meaning of the chair as a platform to debate and explore new meanings. There is a lightness in the execution of this art by just assembling pre-existing things, but asking a very deep question of what is art.

Amit Chaudhri, the writer, puts it nicely saying that he chooses the medium of expression latter only to the incubation of the idea. The idea for him could take any shape – a novel, a novella, fiction, non-fiction or even a song (as he is a musician too). He weighs the ideas against the medium, before indulging into one. Again delaying the first line. In the process of choosing the medium, the idea is already becoming better.

And how does one exercise an idea, in a field, which deals already with space as the medium or one should say commodity. What does this limitation of space as medium bring to us? Or to turn the question around what only can space  add to a manifestation of an idea. Wouldn’t be nice to ask this question at the beginning of every project or at any beginning. What if this question delays the first line? And the first line in turn delays the making of space, which is in any way circumstantial.

So to conclude and to suspend a little more on this naivety , if you are the ‘chairness’, what would you want to be – an image, an object or words.