Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.

Richard Hutten: S(h)it on It

ArtWay Visual Meditation 12 May 2024
Richard Hutten: S(h)it on It
‘Nie wieder/Never Again’
by Koos Sluiter
Unfortunately, there is continuous cause to reflect on the fact that somewhere in the world there are attempts to systematically eradicate a people or a group. Not only is it openly threatened, but it is actually happening in our day. I think there are good reasons to say that the Holocaust was the outcome of a kind of malice that had never happened in that way before and has not happened since. That does not alter the fact that there are still plenty of horrors that evoke the thought of something similar.
This provocative piece of seating furniture comes from the collection of the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, and was on display during the exhibition ‘Ode to the Chair’ (September 23, 2023 – January 14, 2024 and created in 1994 for Abitare il Tempo, an annual design exhibition held in Verona, Italy. 
Richard Hutten was educated at the Academy of Industrial Design Eindhoven, now known as Design Academy Eindhoven. He has become known for designing functional furniture in a conceptual and playful style that he calls, ‘No sign of design.’ He is involved in the Dutch conceptual design movement Droog Design and from 2008, became the creative director of the Dutch furniture brand Gispen.
With this piece of furniture, Hutten combined four seats into a swastika, a shape which is reflected in the shadow effect on the floor. People who sit on these chairs literally turn their backs on each other. Hutten calls this design S(h)it on It, while he wants to symbolize with it one of the most dominant factors in 20th-century Italian history, fascism. During an exhibition in Bremen, a visitor scratched in German the text ‘Nie Wieder’ on a seat. On another seat, Hutten personally repeated the text in English (‘Never Again’), scratching it in even deeper. In this way, he made the response of the audience part of the work.
The reaction ‘Never Again!’, seems like the natural one, in whatever language. But such a reaction is not a formula that is sufficient in itself to ward off evil, let alone reverse it. It remains an empty slogan if it is not accompanied by an awareness of and resilience to the political currents that pull people towards fascism in one’s own environment. Unusual works of art, like that of Hutten, could aid us in developing such awareness and resilience.
You might say that the swastika belongs to German rather than Italian fascism. The symbol of Italian fascism is a bundle of arrows with a halberd. A characteristic of fascism is that one population group considers itself superior and does not tolerate the presence of those who are different and denies those others their right to exist. This transforms into a practice of violent politics under an authoritarian leader. Fascism is the perverse inversion of what the Bible teaches about compassion for those who do not have a secure place in society. The appropriate answer to whatever carnage fascism commits – under any symbol or flag – is ‘Nie wieder,’ in any language whatsoever.
Richard Hutten: S(h)it on It, 1994, iron; MDF (an industrial raw material), paint, 73 cm high, 110 cm wide, 110 cm deep, Centraal Museum Utrecht, NL.
Richard Hutten (b.1967) graduated from the Design Academy in Eindhoven in 1991. In the same year, he started his design studio in Rotterdam (where he continues to be located). After graduating, he became involved with the newly founded label Droog Design, a conceptual design firm based in Amsterdam. In addition to his work for Droog Design, he is active as creative director at Gispen, a renowned industrial design firm, and as a designer for furniture manufacturers such as Moooi, Moroso and Kvadrat. His work has been purchased by more than 50 leading museums worldwide and he has carried out a number of special commissions, including a desk for the then Queen Beatrix and chairs for the wedding guests of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima. In 1992, he made his international breakthrough with the no-nonsense Table Chair, the first object in the ‘No Sign of Design’ series. This was followed by a table bench in the shape of a Latin cross (The Cross), the Bronto High Chair, the Zuiderzee Chair and a series of Berlage seating furniture. S(h)it on It was made together with the bench, The Cross, for the Abitare il Tempo, an annual design exhibition held in Verona, Italy. With these seats Hutten wanted to symbolize the dominant factors in 20th-century Italian history: Catholicism and fascism. 
Koos Sluiter was born in 1946 in Emmen, NL. He worked as a pastor from 1970 to 2011. Currently he is dedicated to exploring the intersection of faith and art. He provides courses, presentations, and a weekly meditation called Believing in Art, exploring the interaction between faith and art with personal participation. For Sluiter ‘art makes faith!’ See:
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