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An absurdist twist on everyday objects: why one designer is making the Uncomfortable

A project by Katerina Kamprani will frustrate and fascinate most people, especially designophiles. Those seem to be the two reactions the Athens-based architect is intent on provoking.

Begun in 2009, the Uncomfortable sees Kamprani take everyday objects and put an absurdist twist on them. There’s a watering can with its spout bent so that water pours back into the jug. There’s a pair of open-toe rain boots. There’s also a soup bowl with a hole in the bottom, a furry plate and an umbrella made of concrete, among several other objects.

“Vindictive and nasty? Or a helpful study of everyday objects?” Kamprani writes on her website, “The goal is to redesign useful objects making them uncomfortable but usable and maintain the semiotics of the original item.”

Each one is designed for optimal inconvenience. Stare at the tweaked items long enough and you’ll want to scratch your brain to relieve yourself of a functionalist itch. We’re so used to these objects working in a certain way that Kamprani’s redesign is maddening.

“It’s supposed to be funny,” Kamprani said in a telephone interview from her home in Athens. There’s only one rule for each item in the project: No matter how strange it may appear, it must be usable. Granted, the definition of “usable” is stretched pretty far when it comes to a wine glass covered in hundreds of tiny spikes.

The project seems to riff on surrealist art of a century ago – the furry plate looks like a direct reference to Méret Oppenheim’s Le Déjeuner en fourrure, a sculpture of a fur-covered tea cup, saucer and spoon – but none of those apparent references and echoes is intentional, Kamprani says. Her reference point is the emphasis of user experience in design, not art history, she says.

And though each object in the series is meant to be comical, Kamprani says she is beginning to see how it irks some people.

“I guess it can be frustrating.”

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