Can-Can or The dance of a thousand pieces of furniture
von Claudia Beckmann | Nov 11, 2008

Furniture and museum - we may think of design exhibitions with outstanding creations, resounding design names and stylistic categories. A few objects over a large area which have written design history. Yet what happens when you try to install as many items of furniture as possible in an area measuring 80 square meters? What happens when you are completely indifferent as to who designed the objects? And how does the space change when you try to exhibit a thousand objects in it?

The Berlin-based artist Carolina Kecskemethy considered these questions in her installation "Can-Can". With her extensive collection of miniature furniture, in the "Museum der Dinge" in Berlin she has designed an extraordinary furniture landscape under the heading "Mobilien - 1000 Möbel auf 80 qm" (Furniture - 1000 items of furniture spread over 80m²). On an uneven chipboard platform she has arranged dolls house furniture from various epochs close together, classified according to individual product groups such as crockery cupboards, double beds, floor lamps, bathtubs, couches, coffee tables, porch swings, chairs and sofas - all of deliberately dubious taste.

The installation reflects on the one hand the way in which furniture design is exhibited in the museum context. It questions forms of presentation, attributions to a designer or a stylistic context. Yet on the other hand it is also about the relationship between furniture and space, object and context in general.

We can still determine traces of the museum in the cultural and epochal diversity of the miniature furniture exhibited, which sometimes appear as an integral part of the content of the exhibition and sometimes on their own, as a relict of history.

Kecskemethy's work seems like a scream from the throat of collecting mania, of unmanageable excess and the compulsion to create order. Yet it is also a outcry against museum structures and a form of presentation in which an order is imposed upon the objects. The artist positions objects of simple coziness right next to design classics and shows them in their social disparity - the atmosphere is somewhere between that of a folk museum and Gerry's Garage Sale.

However, the furniture landscape is not there in isolation, but in combination with other things, such as a piece of video art on Jacques Offenbach's piece of music "Can-Can" from "Orpheus in the Underworld". You can hear the same motif time and again through the speakers, a permanent sound, which reflects and reinforces the bizarre nature of the whole ensemble. The musical background, the wall drawings by Kecskemethy, the manic collection of dolls house furniture - amazed, we stand facing all the bizarreness and ask ourselves: Where is the sense of unease coming from?

All photos © Franziska Holzmann