Mindcraft16 ... the cabinet of curiosity?

Three of the works in the Mindcraft16 exhibition seem to look back to the idea of a 'conversation piece' … a large, unusual and unique piece of furniture, usually made with considerable skill and often using rare or unusual materials, that was intended to attract admiration and wonder. Often, these pieces included shelves or drawers for particularly interesting collections of natural objects or fine silver or porcelain or even scientific specimens and were sometimes called 'cabinets of curiosities'. It was furniture for entertainment or for an expression of the owners status or learning with examples surviving from all periods from late medieval through to the 19th century.

These fine and often ostentatious pieces of furniture have little relationship to the humble clothes press or the later chest of drawers: furniture simply for storage.

For most people, drawers are a place to store things, often lots of small things or awkward things that are otherwise difficult to keep neatly or safely and often they are a place to store things that otherwise you do not know what to do with … the English phrase is to "shove something in a drawer and forget about it'.


The Office by benandsebastian has plenty of drawers and compartments, many of them labelled, but is described as "a bureau designed specifically for the Museum of Nothing." With writing flaps that drop down, it is "a place of work and also an incomplete system of thinking … its potential lies in what is projected into it: the promise of ideas that might fill its empty frames and vacant spaces."


Breathe by Akiko Kuwahata, is ostensibly more practical and certainly more obviously modern and Scandinavian in its stark simplicity. It is a metre wide and just over a metre high but only 275mm deep. But unlike most chest of drawers it is not designed to be set back against a wall but has to be free standing.

It is supported on a sharply precise and beautifully made base in maple with four round legs but the long sides are sheets of glass etched with a hatch of closely-spaced white lines set at a slight angle. There are three draws that pull out of each narrow end with a bottom, middle and lower draw, so six drawers in all, again in maple - simple boxes without runners - but the sides are grooved with narrow angled channels cut at the opposite slope to the lines on the glass so that as the drawers are pulled out there is not just a view through the cabinet revealed at the centre, between the drawers, but there is also an interference pattern set up as the angled grooves on the side of the drawer run past the angled lines on the glass … described as "flickering in and out of contact."


The Jaw Nuts by Henrik Vibskov is literally a conversation piece "a noisy crowd of blabbering wooden heads. Their broken language stimulates the constant flow of information and misinformation that threatens to drive us nuts."