“ERRATUM® The worlds first dysfunctional luxury brand.”
In one of his most well known verses the Czech poet Jiří Wolker lovingly entitles things as the “silent comrades”. However, when surveying the objects that form the core of the ERRATUM® project by Jeremy Hutchison, a totally different epithet comes to one’s mind. These glossy yet dysfunctional objects have neither the trustworthiness nor the humble worn-‐out appearance of the things that the poet evokes. A cherrywood pipe that cannot be smoked, a cheese grater with no holes, a two-‐heeled stiletto, a pencil with no lead, a comb without teeth, a book that cannot be opened, or sunglasses that can’t be worn; useless and yet strangely appealing, they are branded and displayed as fashionable fetishized commodities.
At the first glance these objects might seem as a mere designer’s joke, but the true meaning of the ERRATUM® product collection lies in the story of their origin. Hutchison has invited workers from factories across China, India, Poland, Turkey, and Pakistan to insert an error into one of the items they typically produce in bulk within their everyday working routine. The acquired malformed objects were then used to create a luxury boutique of beautiful yet dysfunctional consumer goods.
ERRATUM® is therefore a fully functioning luxury brand that examines the process of mass-production and consumption in the globalized society, where the majority of things used by consumers in the First World comes from factories located somewhere on the other side of the globe.
The demand for consumer goods is increasing, inter alia, along with the ever-‐accelerating technological development and expansion of digital culture. However, the benefits that today’s information society oriented primarily at the immaterial and cognitive values, still depend on the reliability of hardware and physical power – and it should be noted that although the standard of technologically enhanced life has improved dramatically in last few years, in many cases the physical conditions which support these new realms have not. People all around the world are using laptops, tablets or smartphone apps to improve their home, health, life, or even planet. They use Google to search information on how to be environmental friendly, what to eat, what to buy, which brands to avoid or even boycott. At the same time, they might enter a paradoxical situation as they miss the very beginning of this information chain: the factories filled with millions of human workers. Life for those people is made out of ubiquitous manufacturing belts and repetitive working shifts; their health is affected by exhaustion, aluminium dust and suicides of their co-‐workers, (as exemplified at Foxconn, the Shenzhen-‐based manufacturer of Apple products). Mass-‐production factories, the dark side of the information society, are a place where idealized notion of cognitive capitalism meets the real world of (hard) material labor. It is a place with no room for ideals. ERRATUM® enters this strange interface with no less ironical stance and attempts to disrupt, at least for a moment, the automatized routine of factory laborers by asking them to make an intentional error – a conscious act feasible only for living beings, not machines.
An essential component of the project is the correspondence between the artist and the puzzled factory managers. Sometimes the emails reveal a touching moment of catharsis on the part of the workers who were able to destroy their products or render it defunct. Yet Hutchison does not see his project as a remedy to the exploitative capitalist system of mass-‐production. After all, even if the workers are credited as authors of the ERRATUM® objects, they do not receive any extra fee for their work. Hutchison’s concept interrogates the system that undervalues manual labour while over-‐ valuating and fetishizing the commodities produced by it. Far from claiming a position outside the system, the artist tackles the entwined relationship between critique and commerce. An uncomfortable situation is pushed to its hilt. By creating dysfunctional luxury brand, ERRATUM® reflects on the human desire for objects far beyond their basic function.
Zuzana Štefková & Markéta Dolejšová