USELESS Provocations

Useless! What a perfect topic for someone like me, who for years have been proposing things without function to an incredulous market! When we made Buildings of Disaster, souvenirs devoted to architectural sites of human tragedy, we’ve emphasized that they were objects of design, not sculptures.

“But what is their function, how do they work?” To answer these doubts, early on I coined the expression “fuzzy function”. It is fuzzy because it is unclear. Surely you would not use them to hammer nails into a wall. Our objects were made to fulfill an immaterial need, to become metaphysical containers where the owners could put in their own meanings and emotions.

Fourteen years later, thousands of these miniatures have been sold, coveted by collectors and owned by museums. Somewhere along the way, people have warmed up to the idea that the very notion of function may need to be re-defined.

Constantin Boym

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As an artist, the word “USELESS” doesn’t appear in my vocabulary often. When I was a teenage graffiti writer active at night with my crew, seemingly useless objects like old milk crates or broken shipping pallets made great ladders for extra painting height or were used as background stencils for intricate details. In these days, we would boast about transforming the useless into the useful – creating “skinny” tips from old spray paint caps and splashing the residual paint on the wall for a Jackson Pollock effect.


I believe the word “USELESS” says more about the person claiming such than the object in question. One person may find something useless that another  uses to finish a masterpiece. Useless and Useful share the same relationship between trash and treasure in the old saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Uselessness is a matter of perception, a simple lack of imagination on behalf of the observer. Anyone who abuses the word “USELESS” would benefit well in watching an old episode of MacGyver.

Leon Reid IV

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Useless is beyond function, it means that things are not obstacles, they have elbow room.  They do not take part in the tyranny of the Modern, that is to say they defy quantification and pricing.  They are full of a celebration of engagement with the eye, bristle with multifarious possible applications – all slightly awry. They rejoice in their difference, their exceptional natures outside the flow of most things – they become poetics built on a fleeting desirous love affair with the eye, the body and the mind.

Useless objects are convulsive objects.  The more useless this book is, the longer it will be cherished.

Neil Spiller

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O tema useless é tão amplo quanto se queira e pode ser abordado a muito diferentes escalas e por qualquer disciplina. A questão da utilidade pode ter uma resposta dicotómica como ser ou não o ser, preto ou branco, mas responder a esta questão tendo em conta a finitude dos recursos materiais do planeta não é nem fácil, nem imediato.

Olhando para o tema useless sob uma perspectiva use less, apela-se à economia de recursos materiais ou de comunicação, e a como o abuso e excesso de utilização de recursos materiais ou de linguagem têm sempre resultados inúteis. Se no processo de design abuso é usar mais do que é estritamente necessário, questionar esta fronteira útil entre o útil e o inútil torna-se tão urgente quanto necessário. Useless is excess.

Pedro Sottomayor

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There is very little that is useless these days and I imagine the future will become more and more sophisticated in its use of materials, technology, intelligence and time. As the world becomes more populated and its resources are consumed and recreated at a greater pace there will be more demand for more efficiency and greater creativity. Extreme lifestyles in polar regions, desert regions, high elevations, offshore and underwater will become more the norm as the cheap, easy and unintelligent living becomes more difficult. We are living in the most interesting times as populations explode, resources disappear and problems multiply; it seems obvious that less and less will be useless. So we will need to be more innovative, creative and intelligent and this will make sure we aren’t on permanent vacation or early retirement.

Greg Lynn

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