Katerina Kamprani wants to drive you crazy.
In the Athens-based architect and product designer's 3-D visualization series "The Uncomfortable," familiar objects -- think shakers, doors and chairs -- are made "deliberately inconvenient" after minor alterations, eliciting as much exasperation as they do fascination.
Interview by Allyssia Alleyne
Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
Each image is designed to make the audience think carefully about how they interact with everyday objects, and why these objects are made a certain way.
"That fascinates me, how simple objects are designed through the years," Kamprani says. "Like a spoon: how did it become a specific form that we call 'spoon?'" Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
The resulting items, then, seem to eschew functionality just for the sake of it. Viewers report feeling frustrated and annoyed by the sight of them, which is exactly what Kamprani had hoped to achieve when she started the project.
"It's amazing to see all of the frustrations; people saying, 'This is making me mad!'" Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
When taking an object from useful to absurd, Kamprani first considers the individual steps users go through in order to use it. It's a major part of product design, but can be difficult for those who aren't trained in it.
"We don't think about the steps that we use to interact with an object. We sit in a chair, but what exactly does a chair do?" Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
The objects retain their familiarity after they've been manipulated because Kamprani changes only one minor element. (A broom handle is moved to the wrong side, pot handles are shoved inconveniently close together.)
"I try very hard to keep this image close to the original object so when you see 'The Uncomfortable,' it does not strike as something very strange." Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
She works with simple objects exclusively (more complex items like the telephone have too many steps to user interaction), but that doesn't mean her ideas are formed quickly. She specifically remembers spending four months trying to come up with a clever way of altering the spoon.
"I just couldn't think of it in another way," Kamprani explains. "I always have initial ideas in the first minutes, but I'm pretty strict with what the idea would be."
Instead of sitting for hours trying to come up with a new way of looking at an item, she prefers to let the ideas slowly germinate in the back of her mind, no matter how long it takes.
Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
Kamprani's high personal standards make this especially challenging. It's not enough for an item to look interesting. "It has to be something that really makes me laugh; something that makes me say, 'Oh my god, how did I think of this?'" Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
Though she's partial to the toe-less rain boots and her series of distorted chairs, Kamprani is quick to name the watering can, with its elegantly bent spout, as her favorite. "It looks like it has a character: an object that looks back to itself." Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
So far, only one object has truly stumped her. "I really wanted to do something with the light bulb, but I really couldn't find something that would work," Kamprani says. To her surprise, after she mentioned this mental block in an interview posted online, she was flooded with ideas from enthusiastic commenters. "It was interesting," she says laughing. Courtesy Katerina Kamprani
Overall, the feedback has been positive, but Kamprani says her work has attracted its share of negative online comments too, including charges that it's pompous or doesn't qualify as art. But she relishes the feedback regardless.
"If you get a reaction, that's good, even if they get mad," she says. "The worst thing that can happen to an artist is that no one comments on anything." Courtesy Katerina Kamprani