In IKEA Mega store near Malmø, the second largest store in the world and the largest in Europe, I made a field recording while making noise with motors and microcontroller in the showroom, often interacting with the shoppers and the products on display. These six sets of improvisational performance, or ‘the action’ does nothing much to change the soundscape of the shop or challenge the Capitalist system or to have any means of direct action toward the Machine. However it is the uselessness and its evident impossibility that grants power as an artistic resistance. Since it is producing only harmlessly tiny noise, the symbolic importance is gained by paying attention to the noise created within the shop, and also the products, which will become a material noise in near future. This invitation to listen to the noise is to question our relationship with the objects and their production and coming into part of our consciousness.
I remember the first time I went to IKEA, it must have been around 1993 or 4 when my family moved to Orange County, California. We bought many furniture and household appliances that day. When we came home, I was confused as to if we were still at IKEA or if our house has become an IKEA showroom. The spectacle of multiplicity of choices and almost readily available commodity within reach was unbelievable.
Almost twenty years later, it has become something of an everyday experience for me, as I bought and threw away many of their products, but the initial shock remained within. What is especially jarring about IKEA, as compared to other big box retailers like WallMart or Home Depot, is that the products, once purchased, soon become an integral part of the daily life and constructs the living space until we move or decide to purchase another one. When I began to live in New York City, I would see an IKEA furniture thrown away in the streets at least once in a day, a slightly worn out LACK or broken set of MALM on the street. Since the products are made with maximum efficiency on production and transportation, not on sustainable utilization, these products are very affordable to purchase but most difficult to throw away.
Then I began to realize the concept of ‘noise’. It’s relation to public/private space can be understood through IKEA products. One can think of noise as an excess from production, the unnecessary byproduct of Capitalist machine. For the machine to become ideally productive, there needs to be as least of noise as possible. The scientists call it ‘noise control’ in the industrial engineering terms, the business men call it ‘maximum efficiency’. So then, if IKEA is an ideal machine, it needs to minimize the noise, or to make the noise least affective to the machine as possible. Sadly, it seems that the latter is the choice made by the company. A typical LACK side table costs about 9 US dollar. It is dramatically cheaper than any other furniture that will serve a similar function. The company, and many other companies operating under similar system of Neo-liberal policies as multinational corporations as well as non for profit organization, their success is only possible because they have a control over the shipping industry, making it possible to have global branches with minimum cost for the transportation of material and product. At this moment, the company seems to be perpetually growing and its impact is ubiquitous in our daily life, space, time and interaction with their product is unavoidable. The dispersion of consumption is significant, at least in the first world countries. Thus, Hacking IKEA furniture and the sound space through intervening in their store is my way of questioning the dominance of a corporation and their aesthetics, ethics and values in our life.
Produced with support from Netfilmmakers.dk and Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, NYC. Cinematography by Henrik Vering. Full video work in progress. Bring me to an IKEA near you, I will do another concert, without permission. Thank you to kind workers at the IKEA Malmo.