Merrick Lamp (Daan van den Berg)
From the curators: The term ‘virus’ refers to an infectious agent that effects living organisms, as well as to a type of malware that infects computer files. The versatility of this term inspired designer Daan van den Berg to create this 3-D printed mutated IKEA lamp. Intrigued by Joseph Carey Merrick, whom is otherwise known as the ‘Elephant Man’, van den Berg hacked a 3-D printer so that it was exposed to a computer virus that would produce results similar to the afflictions that Elephantiasis would have on a living organism. The unpredictable nature of the virus ensures that each reproduced lamp is inflicted with unique deformities.
To whom or against what is the violence directed in Daan van den Berg’s project, Merrick? The surreptitious introduction of a virus into CAD files used to create 3D-printed products at IKEA suggests an attack against the corporate body perpetrated against the product (e.g., the Lampen desk light), with presumably unsuspecting customers as “victims.” This action is quite different from most of the IKEA “hacking” undertaken by groups like Platform21 (of which the Merrick Lamp is part) or ikeahackers.net, which promote alternative uses of the global retailer’s extensive inventory, albeit unauthorized ones, but nevertheless an aftermarket exercise in “prosumer” creative re-fashioning. In other words, no one gets hurt: the producer provides the raw ingredients and the consumer exercises her freedom to reinvent by supplying her own recipe. Instead, van den Berg’s proposal disrupts the system at the point of production, not consumption, even if actual fabrication has been handed over to the customer. According to van den Berg, because of this virus, every product will be different. This is by design. One could imagine an alternative hacking exercise whereby a covert bit of code would render products non-functional, delete necessary parts, or simply generate surface flaws like scratches, instigating massive returns—which come to think of it, is not unlike an actual IKEA experience. No, this is an act of aesthetic terrorism. It seeks to overturn the tyranny of the homogenous product, the legacy of modern industrialization. It is an action to counteract the serial production of products—endless, identical objects. Ironically, up to now, the threat to corporate bodies like IKEA has been the copy or the fake, not the variation. Protection of a likeness is copyright. The Lampen infected with “Elephantiasis virus” is beautifully deformed, a potentially coveted “mistake.”