Kaoru Mende ‘ Matchsticks’: Creativity through destruction

Creativity is a productive act but it is also an act of destruction.

‘Matchsticks’ by Kaoru Mende is another design within the ‘Re-design: daily products of the 21st century‘ exhibition curated by Kenya Hara. Mende re-considers the design of ordinary matches by embedding a deeper meaning and concept into the thought process behind it, affecting not only the use of the matches but results in a transformation to it’s physical material and form. 3 ‘Matchsticks’ by Mende, recontextualises the average matches by substituting the ordinary wooden sticks with raw dried twigs that have tips coated with combustible substance. This was done keeping in mind the idea that matchsticks have a greater purpose to fulfill before returning to the soil. The design of these matchsticks is a metaphor that recontextualises the object; this not only significantly changes the context in which matchsticks are looked at, but also allows them to become more sentimental and poetic.This is done through the thoughtful substitution of the stick with a real twig that is left at its raw form; the matchstick is stripped down to its original and natural material. Vital elements such as the combustible substance tip and the additional box allows it to be functional and recognisable as a matchbox and stick, thus allows it to be effective in its communication and motive. It is absolutely profound that this simple substitution has such an immense impact on the audience; it significantly highlights and brings clarity to the importance of the matchstick and embeds a deeper meaning to its use and purpose. Fridman states, Creativity is a productive act but it is also an act of destruction. For something new to emerge–to be created–you must first help it break past the constraints that kept it from its renewed state.” (Fridman, 2012) ‘Matchsticks’ is an exemplification of this, by deconstructing the matchstick down to its roots from the history of it, then rebuilding it through his design; he breaks the norms and connotations that are connected to the matchstick, allowing room for interpretation and creativity. The concept behind the ‘matchstick’ represents the final stages of its life, it expresses the greater purpose before it is turned into ashes and returned to the ground in which it once arose from. Additionally this “purpose” is emphasised through the packaging that lists a variety of occasions that the matchsticks would be used. This form of parody allows the audience to relate and become nostalgic and more thoughtful when using them. Mende states, “Now as we take a closer look, the shapes of sticks are quite aesthetically pleasing. Our busy life usually exiles such aesthetic objects from our mind.” (Mende)  Mende’s design is a solution that provokes the audience to begin to consider the individual existence of matchsticks to appreciate not only the aesthetics, but also it’s history and purpose. Additionally, the unique look and thought process of the design, takes the matchstick out of its macro of being shoved in a draw and becomes a thing that encourages the audience to think beyond its function, and truly try to understand it in depth. Hara states, “To understand something is not to be able to define it or describe it. Instead, taking something that we think we already know and making it unknown thrills us afresh with reality and deepens our understanding of it.” (Hara) This is similarly exemplified in Dean Brown’s “Lamp of Beauty” within his “7 lamps of making” project. With this lamp he takes a step back from the ordinary identifiable lamp and makes it unknown by creating the structure of the lamp out of raw branches. He does this in order to express “that the highest beauty can be found in natural forms.” This exchange of the material from the ordinary to these natural elements begins to engage the audience further through  its unusual aesthetic, and also provokes deeper thinking into its purpose. Ultimately, deconstructing an object is not only about taking an object out of its context and norm, it is a creative opportunity to strengthen a design from the roots in order to give it more clarity to its meaning.