In 1972 Dr. Carl Sagan, Dr. Frank Drake and Linda Salzman Sagan were given three weeks by NASA to conceive, design and fabricate a message to extraterrestrial life regarding who we are and where we come from. This message was taken aboard the space craft Pioneer 10 and launched into space – eventually travelling outside our solar system in the hope that one day alien intelligence would discover and decipher the message inscribed upon the 229 x 152mm gold aluminium alloy plaque. The creation of a complex message that does not utilise any pre-existing alphabet nor symbolism, and communicates in a manner that was non-culturally specific must have been a daunting task – and the result has hence been heavily analysed and criticised. But it was not the last time such a task was given to a group of individuals.
The instructive diagrams that accompany IKEA’s flat packable furniture also do not use any written language and the pictograms used are an attempt to be non-culturally specific.
In theory this grants the furniture created by IKEA access to a truly global market, opening the possibility of the entire world buying into the design and lifestyle sensibilities of Sweden.
The two projects differ in that one is an attempt to communicate with beings outside the Earth; the other is an attempt to communicate with everyone on the Earth.
Our project brings these two symbolic systems together to create a kind of hieroglyphics onto the surface of pre-existing unassembled IKEA furniture. We have used an electric router to etch into the brightly coloured outer façade of the furniture to reveal the inner golden colour of the chipboard that lies beneath the melamine. These seams of chipboard made visible have become lines of symbology. The symbols used are an amalgamation of the symbols used in the Pioneer plaque and the actual pictograms used to describe the construction of each unique piece of furniture. The tension lies between the way that the furniture was intended to be assembled and the manner in which it is assembled within the artworks: revealing the problems inherent within any universal system of thought or language.
With this project: an amalgamation of two systems of communication, we hope to highlight the divergence of thought between two consecutive eras. When the Pioneer was launched there was an ideal quest for progress, a time where there was desire for the new, a society that was concerned with change and encouragement for advancement. Now we are living in a time where the notion to seek for change has become obsolete, there is a longing to hang onto a status quo, a universal sameness.
Like shopping at IKEA, we comfortably slot into the dream of aspiring for something everybody else in the world has got.
Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro, Berlin 2008
by appointment only