Seeing “Don’t Be Sad” for the first time is an experience that’ll probably cause questions to erupt out of your mouth like vomit. Who is that person? Why are they made of wrapping paper? A paddling pool of foam bananas? What’s up those stairs? What is this place? And eventually: What the heck is going on?
It’s a virtual reality installment that makes you giddy with excitement. It’s meant to. All those questions aren’t struck out of fear; you ask them with a hyperactive curiosity, eager to acquire an answer to them instantly. The result is a frantic run between each object, discerning them by whatever caught your attention first, throwing yourself at everything just to see what happens.
To explain what Don’t Be Sad is all about, you first have to understand where its creators at New York design studio Pinkhouse are coming from, and how this informs the range of furniture inside this virtual world (designed by James Orlando and developed by Prashast Thapan). The long and short of what Pinkhouse is about is this sentence: “‘Timelessness’ died when the internet was born.” The studio only cares about the here and now. It constantly recycles its product line to match the time and trends currently being experienced and negates the notion of objects built for durability.
“We want to see design operate like seasonal fashion as opposed to lifetime investment,” the studio says. “Buying new stuff makes you happy. It’s science,” reads another of its statements.
This is why, for its latest line of furniture, as showcased in Don’t Be Sad, the studio looked to the rapid consumption of online content as a model. The idea is to create objects that provide happiness for a single instantaneous moment, and then become obsolete. They’re not long-lasting or durable, made to passed down through generations. Instead, the furniture is light, colorful, and playful. “They should be be bought as an impulse purchase, not an investment,” Pinkhouse says.
These objects include Dog, a Mirror, a Banana, a Drip Stool, and a Drip Table. They exist and were placed inside the Babycastles Living gallery in New York, and will remain there until October 30th for visitors to experience. “The ‘Smile! Mirrors’ are arranged in a row on the wall, asking people to take selfies and upload them using #pinkhouseselfie,” explains Pinkhouse. “The drip stool invitingly sits on a patch of astroturf, next to a tiny banana pen.”
The virtual reality experience accompanying the physical parts of the gallery was made to bring out further opportunities for play with these objects. Don’t Be Sad is meant to showcase the furniture in a surrealist setting that is perhaps more fitting of its style. Another virtual reality experience on offer is called “Ride the Caterpillar,” and it has players sit on the Pinkhouse ‘Caterpillar’ while racing it on a virtual track.
The gallery indulges further into its ties with play in virtual spaces by having a curated arcade. Stephen Lawrence Clark collected four videogames for the occasion that celebrate home furnishings and personal space. Included is American Dream (by Terry Cavanagh, Increpare, Jasper Byrne, and Tom Morgan-Jones) in which you trade stocks to make as much money as you can in order to constantly refurnish your house. Loren Schmidt and Katie Rose Pipkin supply Infloresence, which generates a fictional city’s histories, stories, and features as a publication—with news, a graveyard, library, and more—justified in its inclusion as a city is a “sufficiently large enough collection of furniture.”
The other two games are The Stork Burnt Down’s Home Improvisation—a co-op furniture assembly experience (which we’ve covered before)—and Amy Dentata’s Confessional, in which you write in your diary and try to hide it from your mom. Confessional is kept behind a curtain at the exhibition with a sign that reads “Please Knock Before Entering,” in order to communicate the idea of furniture enabling the creation of private spaces.