Andy Stubbings, The Toaster Project
I’ve been thinking a lot about technology this year, with the writing of our Technology 2020 report amongst other things, and more specifically about the amount of technology embedded in everyday objects. So I was delighted when I heard about The Toaster Project, a short description of an attempt (originally an MA project) to construct a toaster, from scratch, without recourse to industrial technologies. There seems to be a tradition of using toasters as the archetypical everyday object that appears simple but is in fact tremendously complex when unpacked and deconstructed: from Harvey Moloch’s tremendous study of the design of everyday objects Where Stuff Comes From, to the story this year of toaster patent trolling in an episode of This American Life, to the character of Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams’ Mostly Harmless, who, when stranded on a prehistoric alien planet “left to his own devices..couldn’t build a toaster” (he can make sandwiches though). The Toaster Project doesn’t disappoint, and is cutely pieced together as a kind of cento of email exchanges with professors and oil company executives, with travelogue and photos. It’s more of a study of materials by way of metallurgy than electronics or computing technology per se, but no less entertaining for that. I guarantee that you won’t look the same way at a toaster again after reading it.
Eleanor Cooksey, Turner Contemporary, Margate
I was brought up in Kent, not the wealthy commuter-belt part, but the more depressed heel of Canterbury and the Isle of Thanet. The arrival of the Turner Contemporary this year in Margate had the opportunity to be very exciting. We now expect architecture to be spectacular – new buildings should be strange, wonderful, otherworldly, possibly distracting us far too much from thinking about what they are meant to house. Turner Contemporary isn’t one of those; it is a modest affair, probably linked to its pretty modest budget. Having visited it, I was ready to head back to London singing its praises, but for a small hitch. It is a habit of mine to get a postcard wbever I visit a gallery – and the Turner Contemporary failed the ‘postcard test’. The building doesn’t lend itself to the iconic view by which it can impress itself upon our memories. Instead, we have a view of what looks like some big warehouses on the seafront. Other angles were no better. David Chipperfield (he’s the architect) – don’t forget the postcard shot!