I put together a set of ikea drawers today. I wrote ‘make’ first time round but quickly corrected myself.
An interesting thing happened as I laboured over this piece of furniture. I speed up the process of becoming familiar with this new object. Should it come pre-made it would stand in my room, slowly adapting, acclimatising, collecting dust until I am finally used to it’s presence. But through calloused skin and an achey back, me and these drawers feel aquatinted as though it were a family heirloom. Through this expended effort we are connected. Although I had no hand in the designing or manufacturing of this object, a sense of ownership ripples through the pride-filled gazed as I stand back and admire this fairly standard object. In the same way that I would imagine a parent to still love their bratty child, I realise that despite not even liking the initial design that much, it has developed a certain charm that it didn’t possess before. The charm of course being; I made it myself. To a neoliberal world, ikea speaks in verses of poetry.
Because what we have been granted, in a condensed timeframe, is shared experience. In the same way that a family dining table would be decorated with dents and grooves from years of gatherings and angry tantrums around the table, I am able to tell you a story about this object almost immediately after receiving it. Allegory is evidenced in the aluminium bend slightly out of place underneath the lid on the right hand side. I know it’s quirks and ways, of course because because I put them there. And oh do you remember that time when I couldn’t figure out how to get the drawers in and I nearly sent you back until I realised I had actually put the sides on the wrong way round, oh we really have been through it haven’t we. And so through narrative and memory, we are now undeniably attached and it took the best part of a couple hours.
And so this is how ikea gets away with spouting out mediocre design one after the other: there is a genius (friendly, nordic and probably bearded) timelord helming the tycoon ship that is Ikea, fiddling with dials of time so to ensure that we fast forward the long-winded process of becoming emotionally attached to objects through use. Time is condensed, compressed and packed flat so that in an instant this mass-produced object becomes the only one of it’s kind.