Nicolas Bourriaud on Simon Starling



About Simon Starling Born 1967, Epsom, UK. Lives and works: Copenhagen, Denmark Simon Starling is fascinated by the means through which man-made objects come into being. Often taking examples of early modernist design as his starting point, Starling puts them through a process of transformation, relocation or manipulation, drawing out convoluted narratives about their fabrication and the network of relationships they embody. His projects are characterised by a poetic, yet futile, circularity and a large investment of labour. Three White Desks 2008-09 takes as its starting point a desk designed by Francis Bacon for Australian writer, Patrick White, during a stint working as a furniture designer in the early 1930s. Returning without it to Australia in 1947, White commissioned a joiner in Sydney to recreate it from a photograph but was never satisfied with the result. In a process akin to Chinese whispers, Starling commissioned three cabinet makers in three cities relevant to the story to build replicas of the desk, working with only a single image. A high resolution scan of a vintage black-and-white photograph of the original desk was first given to a Berlin-based cabinet maker, a city in which Bacon first came into contact with avant-garde design. On completion of the desk, it was photographed and the image sent to a cabinet maker in Sydney, the process repeated and an image returned to London where it was recreated a third time. By using a story of nostalgia, longing and dispersal, Starling investigates the relationship between contemporary modes of image transmission and issues of technology, craft, translation and the assimilation of the avant-garde into the mainstream.