What you need to know
Taiwan was often referred to as the “world’s hardware store," and two Taiwanese industrial designers are retaining this part of history with an annual exhibition that provokes viewers to reimagine daily objects.
Transforming a plastic door knob into a lamp holder, an air vent into a modular shelf or a flagpole holder into a vase. These are some of the charming and thought-provoking hardware revamps at “The Misused 2.0” exhibition. The exhibit is currently on view at Not Just Library (不只是圖書館), tucked away within the Songshan Creative and Culture Park in Taipei.
The previous “Misused” edition in 2018 focused on improvised hardware in rural Taiwan, often providing unexpected and even humorous solutions in daily life. For the second edition, the artists are instead showcasing Dutch hardware appliances. Some objects will be unfamiliar to the Taiwanese audience at first glance. It encourages the visitor to learn about the specificity of tools in the Netherlands, while exploring its alternate “misuses.”
Industrial designer duo Chen Liang-jung and Yang Shuei-yuan have created an intercultural study through the exhibition — they want to make the observer question the original functions of hardware and how regional differences developed.
The pair shared a clear opinion on the global usage of hardware: the intended use and “misuse” of appliances both count as correct paths to creation and technique.
“If a hardware is already functional in its intended use, then it is also perfectly suitable to ‘misuse’ for other situations. Therefore, we can’t really speak of either uses or ‘misuses’, both ways are just right,” Chen told The News Lens.
Hardware as a cultural typology
The exposition displays nine selected pieces of Dutch hardware that were “misused” for a new purpose.
“For the 2.0 exhibition, we wanted our research to be structured by a mature analytical context. This would allow the visitor to understand exactly why some types of hardware exist only in The Netherlands and nowhere else,” Yang said.
The most significant difference this time lies in the methodology of selection. “When we were picking objects for 1.0 in Taiwan, our choices were spontaneous. We were just picking objects randomly, any hardware from our own lives that we felt could be designed for ‘The Misused,’” Chen said. “In the Netherlands, we were much more conscious of these choices.”
Each of the items whispers a multitude of knowledge of the culture, climate, geography, history, and values of its place of origin. “For us, visiting a local hardware store in a foreign culture is as fascinating and educational as going to a museum. We enjoy being exposed to the unknown, it frees our imagination on how to use it,” the duo explained.
A good example of this thought process at the exposition is the repurpose of a bunch of Dutch bird spikes into a dish rack. This kind of crude bird spike is a common sight in the Low Countries, being almost a guaranteed addition to any church or building of historical relevance. The transformation of bird spikes into a dish rack plays around with the original imagery of the object’s sharpness and crudeness, emphasizing its orderly composition as a benefit.
These clever twists on hardware usage draw smiles from the visitors as they discover what the intended use of these objects was.
Reflections on Taiwan’s hardware history
The designers hope to make people realize that Taiwan’s hardware is different from what they can find in other places, like the U.K. and the Netherlands.
“Even objects that solve the same problems in life can take the shape of completely different designs. Everyone is familiar with designer clothes, or designer furniture, but we’ve rarely heard of a piece of designer hardware. They are universal, yet local. They are anonymous, yet collectively shared and improved,” they said.
Taiwan’s history is closely intertwined with the development of the hardware industry. The island was often referred to as the “world’s hardware store” when a large share of the global hardware demand was being manufactured here.
“Changhua’s faucets were famous, for example,” Chen added. “It is something everyone in Taiwan should all be curious about. Our economic ties with outsourced manufacturing to a certain extent created the current landscape where the varieties of hardware in Taiwan are quite comprehensive.”
The “Misused 2.0” exhibition runs until February 9 in Not Just Library's entrance room at the Songshan creative and cultural park. Interested in learning more about the exhibition and the products involved? You can direct any enquiries to email@example.com.
TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)
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