Over the holidays I got the chance to visit a somewhat new museum in Jerusalem- ‘The Israel-Jerusalem Museum’. It was a great day and two friends from EMIS accompanied me. Everything looked great, but there was this one piece that we simply could not pass by; a simple white chair, the plastic ones that the only respect they get is being presented in one’s back yard. This same chair was hung on the wall and carried the following writing on it: “RESPECT CHEAP FURNITURE!” It is a part of a series called “Buildings of Disaster, from the “Souvenirs for the End of the Century” project. It was done by Constantin and Laurene Boym, as a response to the Oklahoma City bombing.
At the time (1997) they tried to make a statement, one that is relevant for today as well. As I see it, they protested against our handling the resources around us, in other words, our consumerist habits. This plane chair is fairly comfortable and it is hard to find a person who would not be able to afford it. Yet we hardly see them in houses… Why? Is it because they are too plain, not advanced enough, too cheap or just boring? Perhaps it is true but then again, why does it matter? I mean, if we think about inventions, most of them started by serving a need; a task that the plain white chair succeeds in performing.
In the bombing, 324 buildings were damaged so it might be that only after a grand disaster we come to appreciate and respect what we have. We cling to it because there is no other option, we suddenly realize and act as if we knew it all along, as if we had it written in black and white. Of course it might also refer to the feelings people have, this feeling of the earth tumbling below your feet because everything is gone, or maybe just changing, that’s all. We are left staring at a transparent chair, when in fact it is very much white and very much there. No matter how you interpret it, my roommates and I decided to give it some thought and value. We took a white chair we found, cleaned it and wrote on it the same quote, leaving us with no choice but letting the statement penetrate our minds every day.
We live in a village, or as I see it, in a Kibbutz. The Kibbutz values are all around us; we clean when our turn arrives, help on the barn/stable, eat together, share a room, share an educator. We get a chance to respect money and hard work, after which it is very hard for me to want to buy something, especially if I don’t even need it. Yet again, maybe it’s just the fact that my mom is not here to forbid me from bringing in “trash” to the house, even though I promise to clean it.
Written by Ma’ayan Agmon
Edited by Maria Tirnovanu