mu/table

Conceived in the bustling Chor Bazaar of Mumbai, this table which also becomes a sculptural work of art, was inspired by the chaos as well as the structure seen in the bazaars and indeed, the streets of India. On the surface, Indian bazaars seem extremely chaotic and haphazard — but underneath — there is a vast network built over time. A network of organisation, so metal wares are usually sold in one area, or plastics in another, and an organization in terms of supply-chain and being up to-date on customer needs and trends. Based on my interaction with local shopkeepers, I got a sense that they are very much aware of their changing customer base and their demands.

The Modernist notion of form follows function is turned on its head as function follows form. In addition, the idea of form and function as being something that is immutable has been questioned in this work. Mu/table celebrates the idea of change and chaos within a given structure. Thus, form and function are mutable and unfixed. This object straddles the boundaries of "art" and "design" — which it questions — as it transforms itself from a ’functional’ to a ‘non-functional’ object and vice-versa. In the end, is this a table, a sculpture, a work of design or a work of art, or all of them?

While the theoretical framework was in place, creating an object that would fulfil this in practice is a whole other matter... The images at the bottom show how through the use of maquettes — I tried to figure out — slowly — how a structure can be made that can be kept rigid and stable — but also if one wants, can make it more dynamic and unstable. This process took a couple of days of deep thinking, trying things out, failing — and then again trying things out. All around people were busily making things, which made this process even tougher. Eventually my perseverance paid off — and I managed to create something dynamic not just in one plane but in multiple planes which made the object more interesting and was in keeping with the idea I was after — to create an object that could be both chaotic and structured — non-functional and functional. Now the challenge of making the actual piece to scale had to be addressed.

This artwork was conceived at Porosity Kabari at Studio X by Ishan Khosla in February 2016.

Mu/table has been published in Habitus and Trends. It was also part of the IDF Mumbai Design Trail.


Porosity Kabari is an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, collaborative project whereby Indian creative thinker Ishan Khosla, Australian object designer Trent Jansen, and Australian architect/artist Professor Richard Goodwin participated in an internse 3 week long workshop in the heart of Mumbai — which looked at various contemporary aspects related to the market, the city and the mass production/consumption cycle, sustainability and various other aspects that came up as a result of the process. The project challenged these three designers to collaborate in Mumbai’s ‘Chor Bazaar’ (thieves market) and ‘Studio X’, using the bazaar as their only source of materials and making processes. In the bazaar, the designers learned from spontaneous conversation and experimentation with the vendors and crafts people working in this manic market place. Conversely, Studio X afforded the designers a space for considered discussion and precise prototyping, in the development of refined ideas to be taken back into the bazaar.

Porosity Kabari — Creative Rationale:
How can something become something else? This is the essence of sustainable design in a contingent society such as India — a society without the common social safeguards of developed nations, one where the survival of each individual is determined by their unique ability to be creative and resourceful. While the rest of the world struggles with the environmental implications of designed obsolescence and disposable consumption, India is a place where resourcefulness is part of the everyday. Found throughout India, ‘Kabari Bazaars’ (Junk Markets) and 'Chor Bazaars' (thieves markets) are the neighbourhoods where many of India's useful things end up at the end of their long lives. It is in these bazaars that many useful objects are given a second life – car panels are transformed into ad-hock cookers and old clothing is quilted into rugs for snake charmers. Radical transformation at its best. What they didn't initially realize was that this object was inspired by their work — the scaffoldings done by them in the building.

One core principal of the Chor Bazaar is the ad-libbed nature of making, where time spent agonising over a design decision is income lost. The short period of time allocated to the designers
(3 weeks) and the ad-hock making methods adopted by bazaar workers meant that design decisions were made quickly. The designers made decision in the moment, as the maker with whom they worked gave shape to those decisions with an immediacy that is seldom experienced in the Australian context. The complete novelty of these work practices, combined with the exotic material palette found in the Chor Bazaar, forced the designers to adopt an entirely new method of designing, changing their practices and providing the potential for a series of outcomes that are unique within their portfolios. The sculptural furniture objects created in Mumbai's Chor Bazaar and Studio X formed the Porosity Kabari Exhibition. This exhibition was presented by Mumbai's Studio X in February 2016.