Week 13: Contemporary Ornament as Cultural Mediation

“Beyond Nostalgia” and “For the Love of Things” – Hella Jongerius

“On Beauty and Being Just” – Ellen Scarry

Jongerius channels Appadurai’s concept of ersatz-nostalgia when she claims that all sorts of artists, musicians and designers are using ‘traditional’ techniques in comtemporary settings. However, contrary toAppadurai, Jongerius suggests that we find beauty in tradition, not just as a marketing ploy, although she does state that “Trends are consigned to the grave almost before they are properly born.” Jongerius acknowledges that we use modern technology to re-create the past, as well as re-create traditional techniques in order to best produce things that look and feel traditional. We do so out of a desire for the past that is accessible to us NOW, and we are doing it in a way that is accessible to all.

coconutbasketss8                      artisinal-vases2

Jongerius and Scarry agree tha we as human beings assign meaning and value to things based on our own personal experiences, our place in the world or global community, and our perception of these things qualifies as a summation of said experiences. For Scarry, we experience a ‘radical decentering’ when we see something beautiful; in other words, we become self-less and realize on an individual basis, that ‘I’ is not relative, but instead a small element within a grand design, so to speak. Jongerius says, “My perception of the world, whether physical or virtual, is largely dependent on my physical “being in the world.””


Jongerius goes on to suggest that while we currently do find beauty in things, and we attempt to re-create that beauty using modern techniques, these things we create are inherently short-living objects. Their ephemerality, however, is based out of our perception of their qualitative value, not their physical characteristics. She uses cell phones as an example. Although a cell phone, once produced, will work for years, newer and more advanced models come out almost as quickly as they are thrown away. Humans indulge in the newer models, throwing away the ‘old’ ones, making the value of the first cell phone obsolete, and replaceable. Again, she channels Appadurai and his concept of fashion marketing using “retro” styles, promoting the idea that we should buy now before our stlyes become obsolete.



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