The exhibitionbased on the MAK collectionTHINGS. plain & simple views the principle of simplicity from greatly diverse perspectives, not only as a premise of aesthetics but also in the
context of socio-political and sociological phenomena.
In an experiment conceived by the MAK curators, THINGS. plain & simple unites three parallel theme exhibitions: three chief curators have planned out the three exhibition sections to trace the
aesthetics of simplicity in European and also in Asian art history. Over the centuries, simplicity and reduction have continually
had a formative influence in virtually periodic waves on objects of utility and the applied arts.
When addressing furniture design, simplicity is investigated first and foremost as a design problem of Modernism, whereas
the exhibition section on the simplicity of everyday objects concentrates on the counterpole of practical simplicity in using
things and also the unadorned simplicity associated with luxury. The investigation of Asian art history places simplicity
in relation to the way of life and view of the world, and simultaneously to European tendencies.
This exhibition does not attempt to give any answers or define concepts in a plain and simple way. Our primary aim is to motivate
the visitor to take a trip through the histories and centuries of style, to make up his and her own definition of what is
plain and simple, and to discoverand this is not so simple!that it in fact deals with an extremely complex field
Plain Furniture Functionalism and purism, modesty and moderation, poverty and luxury: surveying plain furniture design from the Biedermeier
epoch to the early 20th century and from the interwar period up to the present day, the Plain Furniture exhibition segment
covers the full range of associations that simplicity evokes. Exemplary of this stylistic diversity is a selection of table
situations in the showliving-room and kitchen tables, but also desks and working tables plus chairs and stools from
the early 19th century onward: it was the time when simple functionalism first became a relevant aesthetic quality in the
design of objects of everyday use.
Plain Useful / Luxuriously Simple In the exhibition segment named Plain Useful / Luxuriously Simple, exhibits of ceramics, precious or base metals, glass,
and textiles illustrate the development of simplicity in everyday utensils from the 15th century up until today. Cellar and
kitchen utensils that were developed for functionality with clear shapes and sparse ornamentation are on exhibit in the show
as is luxurious, prestigious table and silver - ware in which the ideal of simplicity of design finds expression for aesthetic
Simplicity: The East-Asian Way In the countries of Eastern Asia, the turn toward simplicity can be first observed in China in the 11th century, instigated
by scholar-officials and occurring in parallel to the transition from military state to civil administration. Drawing on the
flourishing Chan Buddhism as well as on ancient vernacular ancient philosophical traditions, the new ruling class defined
their own, mostly socio-politically motivated signature aesthetics. Reduction was seen as an expression of exemplary modesty
and also began to inform the design of everyday utility objects. Although Japanwith a feudal military caste remaining
in power well into the 19th centurysaw a political development contrary to that of China, the concept of modesty
also found adepoliticizedform of expression there. Not literally translatable, the dual notion of wabi-sabi
refers to a sophisticated sense of the beauty of simplicity.
Curators Sebastian Hackenschmidt, MAK Curator Furniture and Woodwork; Elisabeth Schmuttermeier, MAK Curator Metal and Wiener Werkstätte
Archive; Johannes Wieninger, MAK Curator Asia
The occasion for the second MAK/ZINE is provided by three MAK exhibitions on the same subject that are being shown in parallel. THINGS: plain & simple is understood as an artistic and cultural-historical plea for the ideals of plainness and simplicity of form.
Contributions by Elfriede Jelinek and Detlev Schöttker as well as Sebastian Hackenschmidt, Christian Höller, Fatima Naqvi,
Elisabeth von Samsonow, Elisabeth Schmuttermeier, Johannes Wieninger, interviews Jasper Sharp / Doris Krüger and Simon Rees
/ Jan Norrman, German/English, 144 pages, MAK/Volltext Vienna 2012.