Off The Grid by Darkroom London

Snapshot: London-based Darkroom looks to the 60s and 70s for inspiration for their new collection, “Off The Grid,” which uses gridwork designs in colorful, curious, and suggestive ways.

If art is taught by way of artistic theories, art is made by way of confusing those very theories.  In the 60s and 70s, Florentine radical architects Superstudio theorized that a grid pattern of design would eventually encircle the entire world, creating an “anti-design” as a result of the homogenization that would come about from an increasingly globalized world culture.  Today, London’s Darkroom is confabulating, and then confusing, the apocalyptic portent (pretense?) of that theory by creating an entire collection of grid-based, mosaic furniture, which is appropriately entitled “Off The Grid.”

 Let’s get one thing straight: with “Off the Grid,” Darkroom isn’t hating on Superstudio.  Far from it: Darkroom hugely admires Superstudio, and they have challenged themselves to interrogate Superstudio’s theory on the anti-design of gridwork.  To that end, each piece of “Off the Grid” is painstakingly created from over 3,000 Italian-made glass tiles.  The finished effect is a little bit Tron meets Mad Men season 6, and is executed with a Rubik’s cube mentality without all of the math.

Having said that, Darkroom definitely gives us something to count--and not just to look--at, which is one of “Off The Grid’s” particular appeals.  The pillows’ designs can be stared at, and for perhaps as long as the pillows themselves can be slept on, for their grid design is interesting in its own right but also tremendously, though subtly, thought-provoking.  The reason for this is that grid design is essentially suggestive of the infinite, and not just “where does the pattern end on that pillow over there?” but also, “what is the square footage of the planet?  Or the volume of the atmosphere?  Why are math and physics understood via three-dimensional grid structures?”  Gridwork may be very simplistic on the surface, but that’s probably because it’s so readily identifiable, and so familiar to our human minds existing as they do in our modern context.  And so, a simple grid design that is widely recognizable, and sometimes even passable, in turn poses some not-so-simple questions about its memetic components: how it came to be so ubiquitous, so standard, and so subtly apparent in almost everything that human culture has produced.  Indeed, how it came to be the very dimensional bedrock upon which everything from our cities to our architecture to our cinematography to our computers is constructed upon.

Darkroom acknowledges such a rigidity inherent to the firmly established grid work design, and glosses it with color palettes and materials not typically associated with that rigidity.  The aforementioned question of volume, for instance, is instrumental to Darkroom’s collection, and is directly explored in the figures of the planters, which address the relationship between volume, color, and the beauty of three-dimensional gridwork design.  Darkroom is, among other things, confusing and re-dimensionalizing Superstudio’s theory of grid work’s anti-design, and this is gorgeously apparent in the design of their black and white ottoman: a 9x9 cuboid shape upon which the nine squares of each surface are white, which suggests an undiscovered internality that reaffirms what we’ve previously seen in the suggestiveness of the grid work design; though here, instead of extending outward into the macro infinitude, it extends inward into the micro infinitude, suggesting infinite interior spaces rather than infinite exterior ones . . . mindf***, anyone?

    When it comes down to it, “Off The Grid” is simply a wonderfully retro-sleek way to celebrate the art and culture that postmodernism turned out circa the 60s and 70s, and it’s a beautiful thing that Darkroom is able to bring it to our post-postmodern context and make it quite the relevant topic, theoretical or artistic or suggestive or thought-provoking or really whatever anyone finds it to be.  For that matter, it’s a testament to Darkroom’s creativity that buyers and viewers alike may find “Off The Grid” to be different things, at different times, for different reasons, and with different effects.

Photography courtesy of Darkroom