IKEA. The name alone is enough to instill dread in any sane person. It’s a place where student apartments are identikitted out like clone pods and relationships are tested and potentially destroyed within its mega-walls. It’s a place that draws you in with its heady mix of cheap, easy-to-assemble (sorta), fast food furniture and meatballs—exerting a strange, anodyne power, a power that belies its chaotic experience as you trawl around its one-way system and get lost in the store’s bowels while collecting the jigsaw that is your IKEA bookshelf. In short, it’s pretty much a modern hell.
So let’s give it up for Creator Taeyoon Choi, who’s taken this bastion of consumerism and hacked it with half-eaten cinnamon buns, pencils, and mechanical cutlery. The piece seems to follow in the noble artistic tradition of infiltrating this staid kingdom of the mass-manufactured, where artists like Guy Ben-Ner previously staged a politicized sitcom with his family called Stealing Beauty, and photographer Guillaume Janot made uncanny mockery of day trippers at the Beijing megastore.
For his project, Choi heads off into the IKEA heartland of Sweden, valiantly journeying to the largest store in Europe at Malmö armed with his trusty motors and microcontrollers. The goal of his expedition? To create six minimalist sound sculptures which interact with the shoppers and surroundings.
Over to Choi: “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.”
Choi takes issue with IKEA’s disposable ubiquity, in a world searching for sustainability they fly in the face of this by producing cheap products that don’t go the distance, yet are found in every home. His idea was to hack the showrooms we all know (and possibly resent) while also hacking the soundscape. “…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,” he says.
Check out the field recordings he made below and read more about his Hacking IKEA project on his site.