AS I STOOD in the middle of the narrow lane that snakes through the labyrinth that is Tekka Market, assaulted on all fronts by impertinent housewives and their steamrolling trolleys full of groceries, I was handed an apple and a book. While all that was happening, I thought back to what both Alvin and Clara had said with somewhat provocative good humour, “But where else would you go to pick up a book about apples, if not a fruit stall?”
And this is precisely what Atelier HOKO’s newest research programme aims to do: both surprise and amuse its audience with ideas that are obvious yet, not quite so.
Science of the Secondary bridges the gap between design and literature to bring us a publication not unlike Jonathan Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes or even Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. While HOKO is a design studio, the people behind it are not only interested in design as what it is conventionally understood to be. Rather, they are interested in being explorers of experience. In many ways, this newest project interrogates the boundaries that we draw around different disciplines. An ambitious attempt to get us to take a second look at what we consider ordinary and hence, secondary, it preserves the essence of what all of HOKO’s work has tried to achieve thus far - to interpret the subjectivity of the world we live in. After all, most of us don’t realise that the subtleties of objects and occurrences have become secondary; all because our perceptions have been so finely tuned by distractions and conventional systems of thought to ignore the details of what is immediately present. While one might look at this project and decide that it cannot be considered “design” or “literature", has it not fulfilled both functions if it succeeds in getting us to re-assess our perspectives?
The work does not aim to provide a guide for the individual to employ as a means of informing his awareness. What it provides is a starting point, a suggestion of the need to observe and question the things that take place around us. It is ultimately left to us to decide for ourselves if there is indeed any real value to be found in pursuing these considerations. As both Alvin and Clara sought to point out, the answer is not the point. It is necessary instead to simply wonder, and then to perceive. Atelier HOKO's primary concern is that of process, and Apple (the subject of the first publication of Science of the Secondary) is the first in a series of inquiries into the nature of commonplace objects. The objects examined and documented function merely as conduits to encourage us to engage our surroundings in new ways. Once we open ourselves to these possibilities, we just may get a little closer to what so much of literature tries to accomplish - the discovery of beauty in unexpected places.
By collaborating with various fruit stalls across the country, where Science of the Secondary was available for a period of time, HOKO defends their belief in the accessibility of their work. In fact, there was no better way by which they could have chosen to bring this publication directly to the people. Soon to be carried by several stores (check their Facebook page for more information!), this research programme will be a biannual publication, something we can look forward to as a kind of timely reminder to exercise our imaginations. After all, the world doesn’t transform with what exists and what ceases to.
It transforms with what we allow ourselves to see.