Invisible Table – Bordering on the immaterial

Invisible Table – Bordering on the immaterial

Tables have existed since antiquity. They are objects of everyday use that are marked in essence by a horizontal board resting on four legs or some other kind of base frame. There is hardly a shape, material, colour, construction type or decorative design that has not been tried out at some point in history. Therefore, reinventing the table is an almost impossible endeavour. It is all the more interesting, then, to see what happens when a designer is commissioned to do exactly that.

When designing the Invisible Table, Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka decided on a radical minimalism as called for by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with his design principle of “Less is more”. Dating from the first half of the twentieth century, this principle continues to influence many design works to this very day. Mies van der Rohe propagated a reduction to the essential, the elimination of all unnecessary features – a minimalism defined by strict formal purity and clear geometries. The Invisible Table is not only inspired by this design principle, it actually takes it to the extreme: Tokujin Yoshioka has created a table with a square table top, all from one single piece of acrylic glass, facilitated by employing an innovative casting process. The most rigorous model in this series is entirely colourless and transparent – creating a fascinating effect. The result is a perfectly shaped, fully functional table that exudes an ethereal, almost invisible appearance. Less than this would indeed equal nothing.

This uncompromising formal reduction of the Invisible Table sounds out the border between a physical object and the immaterial, the pure idea of an object in the sense of Plato’s Theory of Forms. The Invisible Table is both a real table and the idea of a table. This inherent purism is also infused by the philosophy of Zen Buddhism: there is nothing superfluous about the table, nothing that distracts the mind seeking concentration. Be it Zen Buddhism, Mies van der Rohe’s minimalism or Plato’s Theory of Forms – with its formal and material reduction, the Invisible Table delivers one thing for sure: ample leeway for projections by adherents to the most diverse currents in philosophy and design. And what is more, it also delivers by evoking emotions.

When characters in fairy tales and legends put on their magic caps of invisibility, they can for a short period wander ghostlike through the world, play tricks on their enemies, defeat dragons, save their beloved or steal treasures. However, the objects they touch and carry while invisible themselves usually remain visible, which makes them float as if by magic through the air, bringing awe and astonishment to otherwise unsuspecting beholders. The Invisible Table has a somewhat similar effect: Whatever object people place on it, at first sight it seems to be floating weightlessly in the air. Thus, the Invisible Table first inspires surprise and then joy from beholders – an outstandingly strong response towards a piece of furniture that otherwise does not pretend to be anything more than a familiar side table. It is through the consistent reduction that it acquires a poetic nature and thus fires the imagination. The “less” in the table’s design and physical presence thus successfully triggers a “more” in emotions.

Source: Every Product Tells a Story (Red Dot Edition 2014)

Posted on 07.03.2017

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