Artist Jeremy Hutchison’s project, ERRATUM examines the fetishisation of labour, and the human impulse to consume and desire objects far beyond their basic function.
The collection examines the fetishisation of labour and the human impulse to consume – even the most dysfunctional of commodities. Solidified in the Brand Guidelines – available to visitors of the gallery to take with them - the Brand Promise of ERRATUM is “Beyond Utility”.
"True luxury has no function. It is not something to be used or understood. It is a feeling: beyond sense, beyond logic, beyond utility. It is an ethic of perfect dysfuntionality" – ERRATUM
For his current exhibition at Paradise Row gallery, ERRATUM, Hutchison has intertwined commercial environments: the deluxe boutique is confused with the gallery space. Products are presented on specific display mechanisms: clothes rails, vitrines or shelves appropriated from artists Josephine Meckseper and Haim Steinbach, who in turn reference and appropriate commercial methods of display. As such, Hutchison's boutique interrogates the tangled relationships between critique and commerce.
This boutique situation is the end point of an often lengthy process. Hutchison makes contact with manufacturers via email – to places such as Pakistan, Shanghai, India, China, Turkey, Taiwan, Spain and Poland. Hutchison requests that a production line worker manufactures one of their products for him, but with a defect. Results have varied from a cheese grater with no grate, to a tennis racket with strings on both ends, a saw with the edges on the point, a pencil with no lead, a comb with no teeth, and a book with two spines (images).
Downstairs in the basement of Paradise Row, the immaculate polish of the boutique gives way to the chaos of the production process. Cardboard boxes sit alongside print-outs of the endless Skype discussions and emails that went between the artist and manufacturer, often displaying the manufacturer’s confusion as to why the artist would request a dysfunctional object. The conversations are often very funny. Hutchison’s project as a whole has a certain humour to it:
“Thank you very much for your kindly inquiry!
I have read your message carefully for many times, but I really don’t know what is your meaning?
Are you joking, sir?
We do can produce many kinds of shoes, but we have never met customers with the requirements, so curious for me.”
“The worker who destroyed the chair is Lee Ming in Chinese name, when I told him you need to make errors on the chair, he was puzzled just like me when I was told by you. And I transferred your meaning to him, he still can’t understand you, but he said it really no person like you to concern the workers, like you said workers have many constraints in production, and also if busy month coming, sometimes they work in extra working time, of course there is a extra pay for them. Anyway, he asked me to say “thank you” to you, and he was happy and enjoyed the process. And you know, the chair is strong enough, first time he want to destroy it by a big stone, but failed, then he use a cutting machine. The feeling is great he said after he cut the chair piece to piece.
… You really are a strange man, but it’s interesting to cooperate with you. Hope you are satisfyed with my service.”
In earlier manifestations of this research, the audience's reaction to this correspondence has often been very positive: the emancipation of the worker, and their ability to create an object that countered their daily work. However, the artist displays a certain discomfort with this interpretation: by commissioning the worker to make the object, and paying the manufacturer, the worker was still acting within the constraints of a Capitalist exchange. The worker was paid no extra fee for his/her work.
It is with the project's extension into a luxury brand that this darker dimension is investigated. Hovering above the display cabinets and platforms, a film is screened highlighting the process of the project; slices of text from Hutchison’s correspondence with the manufacturers dispersed with glossy shots of the finished objects, to shots of models sexualizing the products, and a repeated clip of a worker spinning a machine to press tin. This film has the aesthetic quality of a fashion advertisement – but the reappearance of the worker, repeating the same action, disturbs the shiny perfection of the brand promotion. An ever-present reminder of the origins of this project.
This project is an inquiry into the human instinct for consumption; the rituals performed in retail environments, and the desire for objects far beyond their basic function. The ERRATUM Brand Guidelines quote Alphonse de Lamartine: ‘O inanimate objects, have you then a soul that attaches itself to our soul and forces it to love?’
When speaking to Hutchison, he imagines what would happen if we over-performed our role as consumers; accelerating a system of production and consumption until nothing is left to consume: all matter becomes waste. This is hinted at in the ERRATUM campaign, with images of models collapsing down stairs adorned with the dysfunctional objects.
This exhibition can be taken on different levels. There is an initial humour to the objects, but as you read more in to the artist’s process and the origins of these products, the fetishisation of labour and consumption becomes clear and you start to see the products in a very different way. It is an exhibition that you will carry on thinking about for days after you’ve seen it.
ERRATUM runs until the 12th January at Paradise Row Gallery
74a Newman Street, London W1T 3DB