Crash, Boom, Bang!!

photo: Sir Fish's Flickrstream

Today I thought I’d let someone else do the talking for me. Maison et Objet offers a new Inspiration book at each show and this article really caught my attention, and it will get you thinking too (Note: The article is translated from French so some of the phrasing may seem a bit awkward):

The crisis is poisoning our lives. It’s paralyzing our energy. It’s petrifying hope. The obsessive story of the crisis is containing our minds by infusing them with the venom of toxic fear. “The financial sector is going to hell in a hand basket,” “the economy is in a freeze-out,” “deflation” and “recession,” “real-estate plummets,” “the financial markets in free fall,” “jobs in danger,” etc. The current mindset is cultivating catastrophism. “The current crash represents the perfect example of a complete and utter accident. Its effects are far-reaching, and it includes the representation of other accidents,” analyzes Paul Virilio, an urbanist and philosopher who recommends obligatory intelligence” in order to overcome the crisis.

Faced with a phenomenon of unprecedented scope, can we act as though nothing was the matter, as if the world were in Care Bear land? Unlike hurricanes, there is no shelter from economic crises. We thought that the luxury sector would escape the torment, and now we are seeing that there, too, the recession is transforming its belief in endless growth. So, should we just hide under our blankets until the wolf has finished destroying the straw roofs of the three little pigs’ houses? There will be no miracle cures, no amulets, no voodoo dolls to help us escape the dark side of this uncommon storm.

We know that this crisis is not only economic, but also societal. There is something of a Big Bang in the explosion of the funhouse mirror of an unbridled economy that preferred bonuses to real people. The economist Joseph Schumpeter considered crises, which are inherent to the very system of capitalism, to be opportunities for innovation. So, what if this were a chance to do better? This gestation phase for a new world seems like the right time to wipe the slate clean and rethink our system of values. “Our civilization is going through a qualitative leap,” stresses the sociologist Michel Maffesoli, who notes that “the end of a world is no the end of the world.”

New models will reconfigure the world’s computer. Barack Obama hammered it home: “Change we need,” he said during his electoral campaign. The crash will not end up smoky rubble if our imagination takes the reins and we use it to prepare for the future. “Whenever there is a time of great mutation, we need to know how to go against the flow,” insists Michel Maffesoli. Those who escape the crisis will be those who have shown proof of creativity in responding to the new energies about. Rather than joining the chorus of lamentations, it is time to listen to aspirations about consuming better, privileging the Good and the Beautiful, durability and quality of life. It is urgent to respond to the search for meaning and the essential in a senseless world that desperately needs to be re-humanized. The architect Patrick Bouchain thus recommends “not giving things more comfort than people.”

On the front lines of change, the home is entering a phase of peaceful resistance. Hard times always imply coming back to the private sphere. One's home, the ideal place of safety and refuge, offers consolation from the ills of the world. The domestic aesthetic is thus working to “relight the stars” as poet Guillaume Apollinaire, an escapee of the First World War, put it. We want humor, lightness, whimsy to escape the leaden cloak. Could a smile be the antidote to the crisis? Brands are already playing the card of derision. One example being the Body Shop, which offers “luxury without breaking the bank” with its Spa Wisdom products for “recessionistas.” The travel specialist Nouvelles Frontières has launched the “crisis prices” campaign: “Hundreds of billions have just vanished into the air. Why not do the same?”

Beyond provocation, new collaborative strategies are appearing. Design is sketching out cooperative scenarios that reconcile artisanal tradition and technology, the natural and the artificial, the real and fiction. Figures of style are connecting the local and exotic, memory and current times, the feminine and the masculine. Imaginary short-circuits are bringing together antagonistic elements. A new balance is surpassing contradictions to create ties and unity. This echoes the chromatic explosion of the rainbow, which brings together all the colors in a shining patchwork that announces the good news: a plan for renewing optimism and joie de vivre as motors for the growth of desire. “Yes we can. Change is coming.”

-Marie-Jo Malait
Editorial Director, Cahier d’Inspirations N˚14