We all have day-to-day habits, don’t we? From a fixed routine in the mornings, to the way we drink our tea. No sugar, little milk thanks.
Darragh Casey – a maker, designer, artist and educator who combats the norm – seeks ways to adapt these habits. Darragh’s work has been featured on Soapbox Press in the Visualisation section, in particular showcasing his recent project ‘Shelving the Body’.
Having chosen to meet in a bustling London café, we immediately begin talking about ‘Shelving the Body’ and its inspirations.
So where did it begin?
It began with an observation Darragh made of his father making shelves whenever bored – a long running joke of the family, which became integrated into his design work.
Using people in shelf portraits started from one image of his mother on a seesaw. It was an experimentation of photographing people interacting with one another, and an attempt to show the physical act of balancing. Casey’s use of the people he knows is a conscious effort to maintain the value of ‘the personal’ within his work.
The project was pursued during his MA in 2010, which he finished last year. It is clear that during the course of his studies boundaries and elements were pushed, particularly in playing with the idea of objects as shelves.
He notes however, “Humour plays a key role to feed it! It started as a humorous project, as my background isn’t a designer but a teacher.” He happily admits that through the development of his own practices, these soon showed his “sense of humour could be inappropriate at times”.
Were you teaching before your MA?
He had been teaching Art, Craft and Design at secondary school for two years previously. Through this time, he constantly tested ideas on the students. It seemed natural for the next step beyond this to be testing these ideas as an independent designer.
What’s the main difference between working in a school and then adapting into your own processes?
Casey notes how the teacher’s perspective seemed to carry over automatically. It was nerve- wracking starting the course from having a teaching background rather than a designer’s background, but things seemed to take their place quite comfortably after a while.
“I became aware of how I would learn best. I teach in different ways and learn in different ways.”
It’s clear that Darragh knows how to take risks, and this is exactly what ‘Shelving the Body’ is about.
How would you describe shelving the body in three words?
Casey notes it really only comes down to one word. That word? Subversion.
It’s a subversion of the way we look at furniture and its use – subverting norms of habits, looking at the everyday as to what seems right and then changing it. One of the main purposes was to go against practicality – this being something vital in the requirements for a shelf!
“You may just be a physical object on the shelf, or be surrounded.”
Do you position the human form yourself or is it up to the independent person to decide?
Darragh explains how the shelves are actually designed for a certain person. Through their physical persona he adapts it, and applies personalilty to the shelves they are placed on. Of course, he takes responsibility for their positioning, especially on one request that someone was to be placed upside down!
He then notes how there is a particular image depicting his grandma on a set of shelves with her own objects surrounding her. It started with a letter written by Darragh to his grandmother – no emails in sight – asking for her permission. Her response? “Oh that’s fine, as long as you don’t take snaps.”
Well snaps were used, and in my eyes, it is by far one of the strongest images in the set from his project. “The layout and composition of the shelves tells one story, but the objects are there to depict the person’s life and generation.”
Where would you like to see this going?
It is certain the work will go places, and already someone has picked it to use within their company. But what else? A music video! This seems surprising at first but thinking about it more, it really would work. The first series of images were taken on a time lapse so there is huge potential for a performance piece, just “as long as I keep having fun.”
Describe your practice in a sentence.
“Instead of adapting to mass markets, it’s about designing – designing something to show personality.”
To finish this lovely chat, and referencing your interest in day-to-day norms, do you have any bad habits yourself?
“No, I’m perfect”
But digging a little deeper, we come to the conclusion that fidgeting and indecision are the two bad habits he has. We’ll allow that.
Remember milk, no sugar. Thanks.