No material is as ubiquitous yet as overlooked as rubber. The elastic, durable, waterproof, and wipeable staple of modern life has been inexplicably relegated to strict utility. Rich Aybar dedicates his debut furniture collection Amber Alert: The Nostalgia Series to this versatile material and its incidental illustration of our own past. Presented at Little Haiti’s Blessing restaurant and its neighboring hair salon during Art Basel Miami Beach, the collection was accompanied by a documentary Aybar produced to convey the loaded history of rubber.
From Dutch colonizers brutally chopping off the hands of enslaved Congolese people on rubber farms to the Ku Klux Klan shutting down Goodyear’s first rubber condom because it was black like the company’s tires, there is no way of talking about rubber without confronting some of the most atrocious cruelties our species has committed. These harsh realities were juxtaposed with the futuristic shapes of Aybar’s furniture, which take their inspiration from matriarchs throughout the ages, tracing another kind of history that is less publicly recorded and more experiential. Bouncy and translucent, the amber glow of the Nostalgia Series lamps, side table, rocking chair, bench, and fountain evokes millennia of wisdom and foolishness–all in service of a malleable, complex, and sexually charged future.
What attracted you to rubber?
“I was curious about rubber because I hadn’t seen it applied in a decorative way before and I liked its horny implications. The first time I’d seen rubber with a pragmatic as well as aesthetic purpose was in the rubber top bars at Berghain. In that case, they prevented people’s drinks from falling over, but were also part of the dark vibe of the club. But I also liked the way rubber implicates memory. It’s elastic, but always remembers its original shape. This one specifically looks like amber, which, as a material, is a little window into history, even prehistory. You can see something like an extinct species in an amber rock. And petroleum, which is what they use today to make synthetic rubber, is made from fossil fuels and in that way evokes memory, too. But at first, I just liked the tactility of rubber, that it had some squeeze, and that it’s translucent.”
What inspired the design of the pieces?
“I was really thinking about reducing clutter. What are the elemental lines you need in order to make a discernible piece of furniture? But the shapes were also memory driven. The rocking chair came about because I spent so much time sitting in them with my grandma this summer. It’s a granny thing, but it also is kinetic: you need another person’s impetus and energy to make it act. At the Anthropological Museum in Mexico City, I saw dioramas of these elaborate apartment buildings made from mud by ancient Mexican societies before the arrival of the European settlers. They had all this beautiful low slung furniture and I misinterpreted one of them as a chair. It was actually a mortar and pestle. I guess the women would cook together for their whole neighborhood and grind the corn on these giant mortars, which gave it this soft shape. I liked that unlike stone being eroded by water or wind, this took its shape from female hands mushing corn.”
Your fountain was inspired by another historic female figure.
“It is based on Diane de Poitiers’ tomb, who was Henry II of France’s mistress. She was his father Francis I’s mistress before and considerably older than Henry. She taught him how to have sex, strategize, be a head of state, and a shrewd politician. He was obviously besotted with her, but politically, he was arranged to marry Catherine de Medici. So they married him off to this wealthy Italian aristocrat, but he had this old ass mistress who was always lurking. She only wore black and white and her symbol was the crescent moon. She was definitely a dark mistress, but she held a lot of power over him.
The queen and mistress battled over Château de Chenonceau, until Henry had an accident while jousting and was discovered to secretly be wearing Diane’s colors on a pendant, which infuriated Catherine. She intimated some kind of spell caused his injury and prohibited any communication between them. Diane was relegated to the tiny Château d’Anet in the South of France, where she died in obscurity, but she has this amazing tomb that is held up by these busts that are a lion’s mane, a woman’s face with a crescent on her forehead, and then three boobs on top of lion paws. This image really stuck with me, and reminded me of Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall and its triple-breasted woman. The way it addresses the future in terms of possible egregious body modification was very prescient. People are now getting really frivolous plastic surgery, really unnecessary body modifications, which rubber is a big part of, too. I wanted to pay homage to all of that.”END
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createdAt:Fri, 06 Dec 2019 22:17:22 +0000