Tobias Donat x Buero Kofink Schels
The exhibition Global Goals brings three daybeds together, each positioned on a rug in the gallery space. The daybeds for the piece were designed by the architecture studio Buero Kofink Schels, in cooperation with the artist, Tobias Donat. The daybed’s construction serves as a frame which the artist has padded and placed on runners.
Visitors are invited to settle in to the piece, to stretch out and relax. The daybeds are art objects and, at the same time, furniture that was made to be used. They are made for living, for a vita activa, one which includes napping and daydreaming. So three beds for daily use are distributed in the exhibition space. They have different colored patterns and are placed on colorless carpets which are graphically embossed with simple technical prints – we approach them step by step.
Daybed. As far as form is concerned, the daybed is one of the oldest traditional pieces of furniture known. There were hieroglyphic representations of daybeds in ancient Egypt; in ancient Greece, daybeds were known as Kline and finally, even the Romans adopted them. In Rome’s classical period, both symposia and wild revelry took place on daybeds in equal measure, although it might not even be necessary to distinguish between the two. The Roman upper class dined on festive occasions on their Triclinia, which were originally mostly made of wood but were also occasionally made of metal.
Along with many other achievements and peculiarities, the trail of the daybed was lost over the centuries – until it was finally able to celebrate a phenomenal comeback in the 18th and 19th centuries. Still, it seems as though our daybed is reserved for the upper classes. The daybed creates a necessity where there may have been none; it serves to relax those who know little tension.
The daybed does not seem to have been relegated to the bargain bin of design, neither by industrialization, nor by the advocates of the so-called international style. Whether in a lady's chamber in a Bauhaus villa or next to a desk in a skyscraper, the daybed invites you to treat yourself to a nap, to daydream and maybe even to have erotic adventures in broad daylight.
The differences between the daybed and the common sofa or couch, however, are not insignificant. The sofa is for sitting, and, while lying down on it can be considered more of a basic possibility - whoever does lie on a sofa cannot really be certain that doing so will be good for them. On a daybed, on the other hand, one can lie down with confidence, because when sitting on a daybed, a person immediately looks like they're getting up, in other words on the go. Either that, or one lounges upon it in such a position that they look as if they cannot let go of their pose; someone who resists letting go, unwilling to relinquish responsibility to the piece of furniture.
Sigmund Freud's use of it has had a very special influence on the daybed. He received a daybed as a gift from one of his patients while he was in Vienna, and henceforth embedded it in his "analytical setting". Covered with a "smyrna rug," the daybed in Freud's study was surrounded by all sorts of small sculptures, pictures and photographs, and positioned in such a way that Freud could sit in a chair behind the head end of the "couch" while his guest made themselves comfortable. So the daybed can also be helpful as a tool for exploring trauma, dreams and problems.
Upholstery. The colors and patterns of the upholstery covering the exhibited daybeds are based on popular Art Nouveau designs. On the one hand, this thematicizes the possible programmatic nature of an interior design, which was conceived as part of a habitable Gesamtkunstwerk, right
down to the textiles or even the silverware. Now, those who come closer to the daybeds will find that there are no plants or entwined flowers here. Instead, it is questions that alternate with pictograms.
Each sofa has its own color scheme and a completely individual pattern. On the one hand, the pattern consists, of writing. To be precise, the three questions that we encounter are:
HOW MIGHT WE FIGHT INEQUALITY & INJUSTICE? HOW MIGHT WE TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE? HOW MIGHT WE END EXTREME POVERTY?
The questions point to three key outcomes of the Global Goals (there are a total of seventeen) that the United Nations would like to achieve by 2030. The objectives, set in 2015, address various areas or fields that pose threats to humanity or cause irreparable damage to the planet. These goals, in equal measure, are about protecting life and preserving the environment.
The beginning of each sentence refers to a method of used in Design Thinking. Recently, companies have been trying to learn from (industrial) designers and to tackle problems in a solution-oriented way, looking at problems from as many perspectives as possible, and bringing professionals from very different fields together to come up with solutions. Can Design Thinking help solve the great injustices of the world?
General Assembly. By using the carpets, which are actually doormats, the daybeds are arranged in relation to each other in the context of the exhibition. Each daybed stands on its own textile base; the walls and, on some bases, the windows of these bases demarcate or even span a physical space. The printed architectural computer drawings assign them abstract and yet equally concrete standpoints. Where are these places? And are the implied spaces that you enter in front of a door like on a doormat, private or public – and what exactly do these terms actually mean historically and in the future?
Having a roof over one's head is a fundamental right and one of the United Nations’ Goals. Naturally, only in the rarest of cases is this about the creation of individual living spaces. And since, in its millennia-spanning history to the present, it has always been part of the equipment of places that were available to the privileged only, owning a daybed, of course, cannot be considered one of the basic needs of a human being.
The threats and crises behind the seventeen Global Goals are real and directly or indirectly affect every person on this planet. So why should art, of all things, stay out of the effort to address the urgent problems of humanity? Undoubtedly, one of the crucial functions of artistic production is to represent and reflect upon social tendencies, events, relationships, peculiarities and generalities.
At the same time – and this resonates in the Global Goals installation – art has always been given a special role where the thematization of worldly abuses is concerned: sometimes, through its confrontation and depiction, art ensures that nothing happens. It is ironic, but sometimes it would seem that acquiring critical works is attitude enough.
So what about our relationship between vita activa and vita contemplativa, between engagement and afternoon napping? Is the daybed ultimately a symbol of late Roman decadence? – if it is, reflecting on the daybed might make us think about...
HOW MIGHT WE MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE ?