Who said that duality of meaning and interpretation belong only to the domains of poetry and art? Designer Yaara Dekel’s creations are based on the fundamental ambivalence of nature, as she crafts seemingly banal furniture items, which in fact transcend the ordinary into the extraordinary world of the uncanny. Freud talks of the ‘uncanny’, with reference to familiar everyday things that at time appear alien and bizarre. The ‘Coppelius’ by Dekel is exactly that; a chair which in reality is so much more!
Completed as part of a college project at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and under the guidance of professor Ido Bruno, the quirky Coppelius chair seems to be a modern rendition of the traditional ‘thonet’ design. Named after the famous 19th century cabinet maker Michael Thonet, this style of furniture-building is characterized by the use of lithe segments of wood curved beautifully in hot steam, with the end product being lightweight, comfortable and indeed sophisticated.
However, Dekel adds to the design a twist of her own, and oh what a twist it is! She wanted to create something that is in no way passive: a chair that engages as well as shocks the sitter. Talking about the benign, and somewhat unspectacular, nature of the commercially available chairs, Dekel says:
It’s so common and familiar, that it’s hard to imagine as having any sort of duality. The presence of the sitter is also found in his absence- the folds of the cloth, the fissure of the pillow, the scratched timber.
The result is an incredibly sinister, albeit masterfully-crafted, chair that captures the silhouette of the sitter, even in his absence. Although apparently a wooden chair that is no different than any other, turn on the light of the room, and the Coppelius takes on a wholly unexpected avatar. Chiseled on to the backrest are ingeniously-shaped patterns which, when lit by means of an electric bulb or even sunlight, cast spooky shadows of wrathful eyes of none other than the Devil himself. According to the designer:
The extreme contradictions that occur show the essence of the abstract and elusive term of ‘the uncanny.’ My interpretation of this term is represented visually, which allows me to examine closely this very complex feeling.