Friday, October 23, 2015

Opinion: "Eames has become a vaguely suggestive word applied to alchemise junk shop remnants".

As London's Barbican Gallery launches a major retrospective on Charles and Ray, Sam Jacob wonders whether it matters that the Eames name has taken on a life of its own.

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Right now there are 11,085 results for Eames on eBay. Take your pick. Maybe you fancy a "Large Retro chair in faux lizard skin heals eames". Or a "Brass Gladiator Chariot Sculpture Mid Century Eames". Or a "Globe Hidden Ashtray Space Age Mid Century Modern Eames Era1960s". How about a "PIN UP & DESIGN SOEUR AURELLE Kinky Nun Stephan Saint Emett / Eames SCULPTURE", a "vintage 3 EAMES ERA MID CENTURY NATURE BOY CAVEMAN REAL RABBIT FUR" or a "Leopard Dining Chair Retro Luxury Sexy Ghost Posh Panton DSW Dressing Eames".
Kinky Nuns, Cavemen, Aztecs, Denmark, Brutalism, Regency, and Sputnik are all prefixes and suffixes to a huge homespun market of Eamsiness that falls under the banner of Mid Century – itself a vague term that lumps together a disparate array of design of a certain vintage under a saleable moniker.
Eames is no longer just a surname, no longer simply the signature of the design couple and the denominator of a specific body of work. It's become a hazy, vaguely suggestive word: an adjective rather than a noun.
Eames – outside of the world of design scholarship and commercial licenses – has become a word applied to alchemise junk shop remnants. A word whose prefix-polish transforms the value of the object to which it has been attached, a kind of culturally magic Brasso intended to bring out particular qualities in an object, even if those qualities aren't there in the first place.
It's a word that – in this space of internet bring-and-buy at least – has escaped all sense of its original origin. As if it had wafted out of the studio through an open window out into the world, its meaning atomising and spreading like a toxic cloud till some homeopathic remnant of its original particulates have contaminated the entire landscape. "Eames" is a gas cloud, a powerful atmosphere that has the power to Eamsify anything it touches.
These eBay phrases are also absurd, like surrealist word games or the kind of spam-language generated by algorithms to evade filters. Phrases that, against our expectations where words have some relationship to meaning, are a garbled babble that could never mean anything at all.
Of course this all happens outside of the policed official legacy of the real, original Eames. Outside of the worlds that cling on to values of authenticity, attribution, and legitimacy.

by Sam Jacob