Thing Tank: 18 Design Fictions

The world of things is more than the body of everyday equipment that accompanies our lives: It is a laboratory where the intentions of makers and marketers collide with unstable scenarios of past, present, and future use. The Thing Tank explores this terrain of contact and collision in the form of 18 student projects that engage in a dialogue with some of the defining works of 20th-century Italian design, from Carlo Bugatti's 1902 Cobra Chair to the Olivetti calculators of the 1980s.

The projects were developed in the setting of a Spring 2019 seminar taught by Professor Jeffrey Schnapp that was structured around a sequence of case studies of exemplary 20th-century artifacts devised to suit fundamental needs of modern life: sitting, drinking, lighting, walking, moving about, cooling, cooking, writing, calculating, and entertaining. Though the seminar was broadly concerned with intersections between design, engineering, society, and culture, each artifact was meticulously analyzed with respect to its materials, properties, and affordances, the broader family of objects to which it belongs, and the socio-historical context in which it was produced and circulated.

Student projects plumb this depth dimension of artifacts in the form of plausible (but imaginary) works belonging to a specific historical moment, complete with period advertising campaigns, patent drawings, and other forms of “historical” documentation. The gallery of fictional facsimiles includes a pair of special event Martini & Rossi cocktail glasses, a 1934 timepiece worn to the opening of La Scala in Milan, a scooter-stroller, and two Memphis-style lamps.

Elio Gaarthuis
Sampath Pediredla
Lane Raffaldini Rubin
Kate Spies
Jacob Stinson
Jakob Šešok
Vivian Ho In Kuong
Jiho Sejung Song
Omar Valentin, Frankie Perone
Saad Rajan
Meric Arslanoglu
Alex Yueyan Li, Alex Fernandez Grande
Isabel Chun
Xiaotang Tang, Jing Chang
Berto Ceballos
Gina Ciancone
Kenneth Hasegawa; Veronica Smith
Wal Khumalo

Professor: Jeffery Schnapp
Teaching Assistants: Chiara Fauda Pichet, Mindy Seu
Exhibitions Team: Dan Borelli, David Stuart-Zimmerman