Domestic Art Activity Furniture and Technology

Text display and altered Argos Catalogue

Alter/nat/ed History

Rewriting the Past - Creativity in the Home

Through experiences of working with older people in care home settings, this piece came from considering individuals' perceptions and interactions with creative activities. A familiar story heard from many people was their disinterest with art came from their experiences of lessons in school. Many recalled stories of difficult teachers or they were 'just no good at it', and so, never picked a pencil or paint brush up again; sometimes not for more than 60 or 70 years. As a creative practitioner, I was interested in what mechanisms could have engaged these individuals over this period of time.

The Argos catalogue may now be seen as an archive of collective social memory; a ubiquitous mass-produced aesthetic for homes across the country. With something familiar within the pages; one could imagine how many homes still have at least one item from their catalogue today.

As cooking, dinner parties and display cabinets were endorsed through commercial avenues such as Argos, what if art activities were brought into the 'retail arena' during this time too? As we now see with the surge of knitting, colouring books and upcycling, forms of everyday participation and mundane aesthetics are now being marketed to a wider audience, and appear to be received with great enthusiasm.

This series of work is using the Argos catalogue as a vehicle to provide an 'alternative history'; one in which adults were encouraged to continue to experiment and play with art through the promotion of leisure-time pursuits.

Text Panel for Piece:

"Lost now in the annals of time, a progressive and popularist connoisseur of Formica and all things beige, the Argos catalogue was at the cutting edge of aspiring contemporary design and leisure goods.

Back in 1981, after the success of their amateur cameras, projectors, musical instruments and hostess trollies, the company's board were interested in taking new leaps into what the newly forming disposable-income-rich masses may want next to idle their leisure time away.

One such plan was for a series of furniture items known as the 'Domestic Art Activity Furniture and Technology'. These were a whole range of easy-clean yet stylish Formica furniture that assisted the every-day man (and woman) in the creative pursuits. The series included a "bureau and cupboard with storage for your art materials and paper, as well as handy in-built display areas to 'wow' your guest during lavish fondue dinner parties". There were also plans for wheeled trollies which contain a selection of specific activities, such as a potter's wheel, printing equipment or model making.

Sadly, the pull-out booklet that was meant for the 'Spring 1982' catalogue never made it to the shop floors. No records indicate what the reason was behind the furniture being withdrawn from the catalogue, but a copy of the abandoned version is on display here.

We can only now imagine how whole generations might have engaged with creative pursuits."

Images for DAAFT, by Stacey Coughlin