Dubai Design Week
How to Be at Rest
Auto Bauty Car Accessories, 2020
Researched and collected over 2 years, “How to Be at Rest,” is an installation representing Christopher Benton’s personal archive of used bricolage chairs modified and designed by working-class South Asian and African laborers and artisans, which were sourced from industrial neighborhoods in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.
Touching on ideas of found object art, arte povera, and the readymade, viewers are encouraged to consider the humble chair as a conduit to talk about critical issues of power, class, and aesthetic taste.
There’s a feeling of craft and uncanny that makes each piece of furniture totally unique and inspiring. Many of these chairs have started their lives elsewhere: in the office, at a school. In each one, you can see the hand of the craftsman—who is the same as the end-user. Most notably, every object does more with less, using simple materials found nearby. Leftover construction materials like cement, plywood street signs, and paint buckets feature prominently and signal towards UAE’s rapid growth.
Originally presented within the context of Dubai Design Week, the installation functions as a counterpoint to the bourgeoise, consumerist mode of the contemporary design fair, while offering space and visibility to outsider voices who are often less-than-seen.
Many of the chairs were sourced in Satwa, a working-class neighborhood that’s just a 5-minute drive from where Design Week is held. This proximity offers up potent social questions: Why are the ways people live and work between these two places so vastly different? Why are their resources allocated so unevenly? And why can’t people in that neighborhood be part of the same conversation on craft and design?
Al Khat Al Thahaby Auto Accessories & Upholstery, 2020
Install image. Jameel Arts Centre, 2020
Install image. Dubai Design Week 2020. Photography by Jalal A.