Sylwia Chutnik | Sc**w minimalism26.11.2018
Already outraged at the headline? Wanna tell me that it ain’t right, that I’m just bashing sublime tastes, clean, neat spaces, that less is better? Well, okay, then. Because if I have to visit one more café with whitewashed walls and a blackboard for a menu or attend another event held in tasteful interiors (i.e. empty and boring as hell), then I’ll just have to scream.
Truth be told, I prefer a mess, it does my nerves good. Besides, some people can’t help
drawing stuff in. No matter what, they always seem to be surrounded by knick-knacks—of
strange or unknown function or provenance. Seeing their apartments, Marie Kondo would
probably end up chucking her Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up out the window or use it to prop up the rickety table. I seem to inhabit both worlds — although I respect Kondo’s book and always try to give out or throw out whatever I don’t need anymore, my fingers nevertheless feel sticky whenever I see a trinket that appeals to me.
Half of my Instagram feed is choked with hashtags such as boho, flomarkt, and a plethora of
vintage and colorful designs. I clearly must have felt that wasn’t enough, because at one point I also bought The Maverick Soul, an album featuring the interiors of apartments and
workshops of 25 artists, free spirits that we like to call bohemian, but most people usually
label weirdos and freaks. Ohh, how I love them. I’d love to drop by their place for a cup of tea or live in a place that looks like that. Their interiors, arranged according to principles close to my heart, including “mess it up,” “that would go well with a little chaos,” and “you’re a magpie, embrace it,” are chock full of all kinds of treasures. Browsing through that album guarantees a break from reality. A single frame carries so many details that you have to really open your mind and your eyes to take it all in. And when you do, the picture seems to pull you in and you feel like you’re there. Then you lift your gaze up and look around your own place: well, it’s not exactly the same, but at least the intensity of the mess is similar. How does that happen? I often feel like I’m tidying up my place all the time and many people tell me that it’s always neat. So it’s not about mess, per se, but a peculiar affliction of overabundance which seems to unceasingly make more of itself. It multiplies whenever the lights go off. It’s then that all of the books and papers get all huffy and lock ranks to senselessly in all directions. It’s then that the baubles move around to gather even more dust, then the table covers itself with more books and old rag dolls. It’s then that the shelves start to sag under all the bottles, corks, and the assorted bric-a-brac. Well… but I do put all of them there myself. But where do they all come from?
I often feel like I’m tidying up my place all the time and many people tell me that it’s always neat. So it’s not about mess, per se, but a peculiar affliction of overabundance which seems to unceasingly make more of itself. It multiplies whenever the lights go off.
There are also other reasons in play: I don’t want to get serious about it because my place isn’t exactly big and I don’t live alone. I dream of having a room for myself, one where I could give myself to my hoarding proclivities, but for the time being I’m banned from digging around the local dumpsters. I no longer drive by Warsaw’s Olimpia bazaar or rummage around for lost treasures online. All of these efforts are supposed to help me minimize (yes, yes, you read that right) the amount of stuff I own and stop me from messing up my living space. I work at home, for Christ’s sakes, where am I supposed to keep all of that stuff?
I dream of having a room for myself, one where I could give myself to my hoarding proclivities, but for the time being I’m banned from digging around the local dumpsters.
Truth is that I feel happy when I feel surrounded by all these trinkets. I feel amused, intrigued. My desk looks like Sodom and Gomorrah so how exactly would any degree of neatness help here? But would I really be able to go on without my vintage little boxes, bookmarks, ink nibs, little notebooks? No, I wouldn’t. They are all part and parcel of my collection of utilitarian beauty. They not only look pretty on the shelves, we strive together for the greater glory of art and literature. It’s not a secret that my love for a trinket is predicated upon their ability to help me, serve my purposes. I envy owners of the beautiful homes featured in The Maverick Soul — they don’t have to pare anything down, they just put stuff up how they like it. They stack it, drape it, heap it. The question of whether any of it is of use to them doesn’t actually apply here, and I don’t think anyone ever thought of examining it from that particular angle.
Let’s take the nearly eighty-year-old Wendy Whiteley from Sydney: an artist and gardener. Her physical appearance is wholly consistent with the interiors of her domicile. As the former wife of painter Brett Whiteley and mother of Arkie, an actress, her home is filled with artifacts of probably every sphere of culture there is: there are stacks of books, brushes, papers, and documents (she was bequeathed all of Brett’s works).
She also has mementos of family members living and dead. For example her aunt, painted Kate O’Connor, who collected hats and highly original outfits. To me, Wendy’s interiors are an excellent example of blending functionalism (her place is not a typical hoarder cave, but a genuine workshop), artifacts of the past, and the gazillion of trinkets cleverly spread along the shelving and all the nooks and crannies. Their curator, their queen, deftly moves between desks and slanted roofs, posing against them as if standing on a meticulously conceived film set. Her eyes, piercingly blue, seem to mock us: “Still think I’m a lunatic?” When she tore down nearly all the walls in her home, for a moment she thought she’d reinvent herself. But then she thought: “What the fuck, I love being here” (I’m not making this up, that’s a direct quote). That’s a good way of thinking when we’re not exactly sure of our moves. And when someone suggests that our place is either messy or clogged up with too many unnecessary trinkets.
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