ERRATA: A Design Exhibition About Books and Mistakes
The exhibition Errata: Books do Clutter a Room, which was on view at the Alphabet City bookstore Mast Books during 2019 New York Design week, was a celebration of errors and of haphazard invention. “The idea of the mistake has a lot to do with how self-made pieces that undergo artisanal process are developed, and the decisions that people are making,” says Miguel Leiro, who co-curated the show with New York-based rare design book connoisseur Nelson Harst (you might know him on Instagram as @antifurniture). The exhibition was structured in relation to the book — as a design object and as décor — and featured works by Leiro as well as eight fellow Spanish designers, all of whom take up the issue of errors, in one way or another.
Brothers Álvaro and Pablo Ferreira, who have previously presented work together, had the opportunity to interpret the brief individually. Pablo’s Magazine Rack, a suggestive work made from latex, nickel-plated brass, and black rope, gestures at the fetishization of print.
Pablo's graphic designer brother, Álvaro presents an item that is almost its polar opposite, a concealed, austere, but nonetheless obsessive, a hand-crafted book called Untitled 2019 ©, composed with the monk-like dedication of manually filling in each space between the words of George Orwell’s 1984.
Designer Pablo Alabau’s Goma Lamp uses the most elemental material of a book — paper — to create a dimly lit object that references the clean and understated verses of Japanese haiku poet Santoka Taneda.
Similarly, the book’s materiality is explored in Tomás Alonso’s From / To, a series of side table and shelf prototypes made of paper pulp in different proportions.
Jorge Penadés opted for a joist-hanger mount for his Screwed shelves, which distinguish themselves with a peculiar arrangement of single sheets of copper and nickel finished in acid.
Julen Ussía, who up until now was known mostly as a ceramicist, built a series of glass bookmarks called Hiruki. The book is to be placed on top of the bookmark, made up of three glass sheets held together by elastic bands. It’s a fragile yet calculated effort by the Barcelona-based designer that gives weight to the vulnerable feeling of losing your page in a book.
Sara Regal’s Mass Lectern, a reference to the stone-carved lecterns Regal would see growing up Catholic in Galicia, stands in contrast to the other work in Errata with its neo-baroque style. “I chose this typology due to its dependence on the book — a lectern without a book does not have a purpose,” Mallorca-based Regal explains. “The material is polyurethane waste that comes from a producer based in the island of Mallorca. My piece is shaped from a single block using different carving tools, which is quite similar to working with stone.”
Sitting on a bed of rocks on the ground is Andrés Izquierdo’s The tongue is holy, a sort of thumb-shaped bench of fiberglass, resin, and gold leaf. Izquierdo’s work is raw and confrontational, even awkward. He describes its relation to the book by way of narrative, suggesting a connection to the occult or perhaps even the esoteric.
Leiro’s own piece, Cock duster and step stool cleaning kit, is made from spun Delrin (a thermoplastic used in precision parts such as mechanical gears) and cock feathers — a direct reference to the livestock he and his family grew up around in Galicia. Leiro underscores the irony of sustainability: “The rooster lived well, it fed us, and now it can live as part of the house.” The kit includes a feather duster which suggests shelves of unread books that need to be brushed off, and a stool that doubles as a flower vase.
The show's subtitle — from Anthony Powell’s 1971 novel Books do Furnish a Room — considers the idea of clutter, how the stuff we live with ultimately defines us. The exhibition successfully observes the irony in the dysfunctional through a playful yet critical eye. The works by some of the less-established designers stand out for their seemingly random appearance, as if placed in Mast by “mistake,” while most of the pieces blend in with the sober maple plywood setting at Mast Books (designed by Savvy Studio in 2018). Conversation, camaraderie, and humor are ultimately what makes this show Spanish — something that is made all the more evident once you find out the entire show came together through a WhatsApp group chat. It is uncertain whether the show will travel next to Mexico City. In the meantime, Errata is looking into the prospect living on as a book.