Woods and patination

We’ve commented before on the relative paucity of pre-aged consumer electronics, in comparison to industries like guitar manufacturer, where patina is treated as a highly prized extension of craftsmanship (a post expanded upon at a456). As well as ‘artist-endorsed’ models like the Sonic Youth guitars or the Kurt Cobain Jaguar (the latter features almost comic levels of artificial disintegration), there are also zero-provenance models like their ‘Road Worn‘ series, or models from Fano Guitars, all of which have the crackles, scuffs, rust and scratches built in from the word go. Patina is easy to fake. A whole industry has grown out of the desire to own things with a sense of history, perhaps inspired by the denim industry from the late 70s). But whereas Retro design uses the visual cues and forms from an earlier age (something we’ve written about at length here), pre-patinated design goes further. For now, pre-patination is a decidedly left-field operation, catering to a particular niche – the steampunk fascination with tarnished brass and varnished wood, for example. But there are signs that the hunger for built-in history is crossing over to the mainstream, especially in areas that are particularly threatened by digital culture. In Cover me Beautiful, Kathryn Hughes writes about the revival in not just book cover design, but ‘classic’ book cover design, the embossed, folded, hand-printed, richly ornamented dust jackets and covers that are, in part, a reaction against the dull grey hegemony of the e-reader. The question is, what will be the next object to be venerated in this fashion?

Tom Armitage wrote a long piece on ‘patina’ last year, encouraged by the intangible qualities that worn edges and rubbed surfaces added to a well-used and loved object – a camera or laptop, for example. Armitage writes that ‘I’m not sure patina can be designed. After all, it’s a product of the relationship between product and owner.’ By pre-patinating things, the relationship itself is pre-determined, with lived experience passed over in favour of nostalgia. A pertinent follow-up comment from Karl Dubost: ‘Or maybe we do not have yet enough history of computing devices to be able to notice the digital patina of them (missing pixels on a screen), pieces of codes. The Web has much more patina with all its old, dated or rotten links.’ The more magical technology becomes, the more patination detracts from our interaction with it; the touch screen is a bad place for scratches and dents, however memorable or evocative, whereas a laptop can function perfectly with a cratered and scarred case. The question of whether we can design gadgets that age is periodically rolled out, but the alternative – gadgets that are pre-aged – are rarely considered. Yet.

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Other things. Too Many Clouds, a tumblr / What architectural wonder would you like to see as the next LEGO® Architecture model? We say Habitat 67, which seems to be the runaway leader (via Coudal) / Justin.tv seems to be the place to go if you want to watch people play video games (watching is the new playing, as any time-poor aficionado will attest) / The Iceberg, a project about looking behind and under art and artists / images by Masaaki Haradan / Blue Veins, a tumblr / this is a very, very modern question / book cut sculptures by Su Blackwell / images from Jürgen Mayer H.’s book Wirrwarr, an expensive monograph about the aesthetics of data protection (and some of the fundamentals behind his practice’s aesthetic).

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2 Responses to Woods and patination

  1. Slabman says:

    No consumer demand for pre-distressed cars either. Everyone wants them shiny, even though they’ll soon get banged up.

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