It is not about the chair

The chair is ruined. It was suddenly too late, or was it the perfect timing? Being not patient enough, big strokes of thick orange paint of straining of the back and on the seat, endlessly trying to make it better, it only got worst. My fingers are full of paint which I can’t remove, my head is turning because of the smell. The chair is not how I wanted. I felt first disappointed and that it was destroyed. After a dreadful day of painting, on my bicycle I suddenly felt relieved. Since it is not about the chair, I don’t need the chair. I had to paint it orange to realizing that the chair was just a sort of projection process. It’s a chair of amateurism, trying, caring but also frustration and failing. Can self-sabotage be a research method?





13.10.2020 - Rijksmuseum

Prototype of the Mondial Chair, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, 1957
steel (alloy), h 76cm × w 50cm × d 55cm More details
© Pictoright

In 1957 Gerrit Rietveld and his son Wim were commissioned to design a chair for the Dutch pavilion at Expo 58, the World’s Fair in Brussels. This is the prototype of that ‘global chair’, in which Rietveld realized his aim of ‘relieving mankind of all excess.’ On each side, the seat, back and legs come together at a single point, at the end of a steel tube.

On display in room 3.3

Identification
Title(s)Prototype of the Mondial Chair
Prototype van de Mondialstoel
Object type
Object number
BK-C-2012-4
Creation
Artist
designer: Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
designer: Wim Rietveld
maker: Gispen
Place Culemborg
Dating 1957
Material and Technique
Material steel (alloy)aluminum (metal)
Measurements height 76 cm × width 50 cm × depth 55 cm
Acquisition and rights
Credit line
On loan from P.C. Wever and M.M. Schoneveld, Rosmalen
Acquisition loan 1-Oct-2012
Copyright Pictoright


In this same room, another object stayed on my mind a few days after my visit. The ‘Mondial Chair’ designed by Gerrit Rietveld and made by his son Wim Rietveld. The first question in my mind is how a chair can be named ‘mondial’. How can a chair be for the entire world? I am fascinated by this notion of ‘universality’ which has been overly misused from the beginning of the 19th century, rooted in the philosophical movement of the enlightenment. Was the earth before in the dark? Can men suddenly be enlightened? By which light?
Nationaal Archief

Naam archiefblok: Expo Brussel 1958
Archiefbloknummer: I26036
Omvang: 94 inventarisnummer(s); 10,60 meter
Taal van het archiefmateriaal: Het merendeel der stukken is in het Nederlands.
Soort archiefmateriaal: Normale geschreven, getypte en gedrukte documenten, geen bijzondere handschriHen. Het archief bevat tekeningen.
Archiefbewaarplaats: Nationaal Archief, Den Haag
Archiefvormers: Stichting Wereldtentoonstelling Brussel
Samenvatting van de inhoud van het archief: Het archief van de Stichting Wereldtentoonstelling Brussel bevat onder meer stukken betreIende de oprichting van de stichting, de samenstelling van het Algemeen Bestuur, de huisvesting, commissies en het personeel van de stichting en contacten met Nederlandse ministeries en Belgische o5ciële instanties. Tevens bevat het stukken betreIende de voorbereiding van de tentoonstelling, de inrichting van de terreinen en de paviljoens, Nederlandse deelnemers, pr- activiteiten, de exploitatie, en de sloop na de afsluiting van de tentoonstelling. Daarnaast zijn er tekeningen van het Nederlandse paviljoen bewaard gebleven.



A speculative visit to the National Archives to The Hague. I arrive at nine sharp. Days are always too short in the archives, so you have to do the best out of it. I have the same feeling of when going on a discovery trip. A trip through time. I try to not forget that this is a kindof illusion but I enjoy falling in the trap every time. You never really know what will slip in your fingers today. My eyes are still a bit sleepy but I am very excited. An archivist asks me my name to give me my reservations. He then sends me to the table where the documents I ordered online for this day are ready for me. Some are missing, because they are unavailable, with no other explications. I took my camera with me and a notebook.

No food or drink is allowed to avoid any disaster of destroying a preciously kept document. I wonder what is worth one document alone: Certainly not much. It is only once part of the archive, as a whole, that it begins to gain (symbolic?) value. A pile of light blue boxes is waiting for me. I can’t wait to open them and but I first look at their inscriptions. The first boxes are the administrative ones: Letters exchanges, confirmation of the location of the World fair, of the participation of the Netherlands to the fair. The next box contains the different persons invited to take part with the Dutch pavilion to represent Dutch knowledge and technology advances. The Philips company will have its own pavilion. A water installation will present the system put in placein the Netherlands to control the rise of water and how artificial dikes work. Different Dutch companies have taken part to the construction of the show.

There is also a box only on the construction of the pavilion itself. The pavilion had the form of a boat. Different architects have been asked to participate. Rietveld will design a part of the furniture, with the Mondial chair in the kitchen. Another box has a few architects plans of pavilion, but the paper is very fragile and bits have been torn. The next boxes are very interesting. The official catalogues of the exhibition in different languages presenting the different pavilions around the Heysel park in Brussels. Today, the Atomium, which originally was meant to be deconstructed is still at there and is the main attraction in the area, with the exhibitions taking place in the huge halls in the surroundings. There is also an attraction park, mini- Europe, reproducing different monuments in Europe on a small scale. Quite far of the city center, tourists are the main people going to see the famous Belgian monument. It has been restored in 2006, replacing the aluminium plates with inox plates. The money for the restoration came partly from people buying a part of Expo ‘58’ by purchasing a aluminium plate of the Atomium for 1000 euros.

This was a big success. In an interview of the buyers, they often recall to magical feeling of the event and childhood memories. I wonder what people did with their pieces of Atomium. Exposing as decoration in their houses, kept in the attic, changed to another object such as lamp? Between the pages, there are pictures of people in an ‘authentic’ the Congolese village, remembering the other side of the growing technology and excess of modernization. Colonialism is often left behind of the joy of nostalgia. Memory has its failures, and sometimes seems easier to forget. A Congolese village at the foot of the Atomium is often not the first image which comes in mind thinking about modernity; why? What does this universal exhibition actually try to show to us? The answer ‘the world’ suddenly seems out of the trajectory.

The next box is a box I have been thinking about for months now. The uniforms of the hostesses. The pictures being mainly in black and white, a piece of orange fabric reassures me. Their dress and hats were orange, with a scarf showing the colours of the Dutch flag. A story that fascinates me is that one of the hostesses has stolen one of the Mondial chairs to paint in orange. Imagining a woman, a typical housewife of the 60’s, stealing a chair which Rietveld designed ‘for all’ trills me. This narrative breaks the chairs usual journey to collectors, art dealers such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s or museum’s collections. The chair did fulfil his ultimate goal: to be sit on. It is already five, and my camera’s battery is empty. A speaker prevents the visitors to kindly follow their way to the exit.