Greige Days Dawning
Swatch Fans, Sample Stacks, and Other Technologies of Urban Transformation
Magnolia. Cygnet. Mojave. Kashmir. Lava dust. The Formica swatch fan spreads itself open smoothly to reveal dozens of small, 0.07mm-thick squares of decorative laminate, each named in accordance with its color, texture (Microdot, Plex, or Sculpted), or material (stone finishes include Dolce Vita, Travertine Silver, and Breccia Paradiso. Woods have names like Manitoba Maple, Millennium Oak, and Avignon Walnut. The trademarked melamine-coated laminate is familiar to the touch—the samples have none of the thermal properties of the materials they purport to perform, and none of the geographic or cultural histories of use or production. They are the stuff of paper mills and oil wells, of photography and printing technologies. They are cardboard + melamine + image. Whilst the light, close-grained soft wood of the Manitoba Maple (botanical name Acer negundo) has been used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas to make bowls, dishes, drums, and pipe stems, Formica Laminate F7555 will never become a pipe, feed a Boxelder bug, or cause a rare neurological disease in grazing horses. As F7555, Manitoba Maple will rather be mobilized as image in order to operate in other “Environments” (“Education,” “Retail,” “Healthcare,” “Office,” “Kitchen,” “Restaurant,” “Hotel,” “Elevator,” and “Washroom”), removing porosity from the surfaces we touch and sealing them with a thin layer of highly durable plastic. Such surfaces are in turn not confined to singular interiors but stretch, in their ubiquity, across vast urban territories; the architect who picks out F7555 may be applying this laminate to hundreds of square meters of benchtop. The scale of urban transformation is only limited by a complex web of regulatory boundaries, profit possibilities, and ownership structures.
Essay in support of the exhibition “Showroom,” Carl-Oskar Linné and Lina Kruopytė
Studio17 er støttet av Norsk Kulturråd og Stavanger kommune
Studio17 is supported by the arts concil of Norway and Stavanger municipality.