CR Blog

The Art of the Factory


Posted by Eliza Williams, 29 June 2011, 13:35    Permalink    Comments (50)

Untitled (High Heels), Qing Li, Lina International Shoes Ltd, Huizhou, China

For his new project, Err, artist Jeremy Hutchison contacted various factories around the world, and asked if one of their workers would produce an 'incorrect' version of the product they make every day: in doing so, the functional objects became artworks.

"I asked them to make me one of their products, but to make it with an error," Hutchison explains. "I specified that this error should render the object dysfunctional. And rather than my choosing the error, I wanted the factory worker who made it to choose what error to make. Whatever this worker chose to do, I would accept and pay for."

Untitled (Chair), Lee Ming, ShowOwn Ltd, Hangzhou, China

Untitled (Shovel), Henryk Wegner, Romanik Tools S.A., Gdansk, Poland

"[Err is] about creating deliberate miscommunication," continues Hutchison, "forging a moment of poetry within a hyper-efficient system of digital exchange. It's about an invisible global workforce, and their connection to the relentless regurgitation of stuff. It's about Duchamp and the readymade, but updated to exist within the context of today's globalised economy. It's about the rub between art and design, the mass-produced and unique, the functional and the dysfunctional."

Untitled (Comb), Mr Kartick, Mr Ram, Mr Vikash, Star Creations Ltd, Kolkata, India

Untitled (Sunglasses), Mr King, Wenzhou Yidao Optical Co, Ltd, Wenzhou, China

The resulting new products Hutchison received vary enormously. Some are simply objects that have been destroyed, such as the chair, from a factory in China. Others are more playful: a shovel with its handle inverted, a pipe with no space to stuff tobacco.

Untitled (Pipe), Soner Demirel, Pipsan Pipes, Istanbul, Turkey

Untitled (Trumpet), Lie Liu, Tianjin Jessy Musical Instrument Co, Ltd, Tianjin, China

Hutchison has kept all of the correspondence with the factories as part of the project. As might be imagined, many of the initial emails express confusion. Shown below are two of the emails he received, including one with the apt enquiry, "are you joking, sir?"

Even more intriguing is some of Hutchison's later correspondence regarding how the individual workers felt about the project. Lee Ming, the Chinese worker who destroyed the chair, is said to have initially tried to "destroy it with a big stone", before using a cutting machine. The person writing to Hutchison on behalf of Lee Ming then reports that "the feeling is great he said after he cut the chair piece to piece".

Untitled (Ladder), Jack Lee, Shijiazhuang Dadaoyuan Trading Co, Ltd, Shijiazhuang, China

Untitled (Walking Stick), Carlos Barrachina, FCA Segorbina de Bastones, SL, Segorbe, Spain

Err will be exhibited in London as part of a group show at Paradise Row gallery, which opens on July 8. More info on the show is here, while info on Hutchison's other projects can be found at


CR in Print

Thanks for reading the CR Blog but, if you're not also getting the printed magazine, we think you are missing out. This month's bumper July issue contains 60 pages of great images in our Illustration Annual plus features on Chris Milk, Friends With You and the Coca-Cola archive.

If you would like to buy this issue and are based in the UK, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 292 3703 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine and get Monograph.


Fantastic! super inspiring! also in a Graphic Designers perspective!

/Richard Feldéus
Richard Feldéus
2011-06-29 14:17:24

Probably my favourite project of the year so far. Love it. The sunglasses and the spade in particular are both fantastically useless and really quite beautiful, while still easily recognisable as once functional.

This has made my day. Cheered me right up.

2011-06-29 14:30:37

I really love this. But what's wrong with the shoes? i'd wear them!
2011-06-29 14:31:30

@Starky I think you'd struggle to get your feet in...
2011-06-29 15:12:55

This is fantastic, I love the comb and pipe, they really work as a sculpture while still being able to tell their past function. It is fun to see the correspondence from the workers. One of my favourite posts this year!
2011-06-29 15:20:00


@ Starky The entrance of the shoe's are filled in!
2011-06-29 15:23:54

I love these. Some I had to look at for a while to actually 'see' what was wrong with them!
2011-06-29 15:38:29

The comb is my favourite, a beautiful object if not utterly useless!
2011-06-29 15:57:21

These are great. I especially like the trumpet.
2011-06-29 17:48:03

The fact that Lee Ming "tried to destroy it with a big stone" is my favourite bit of this, next to his good feeling about the destruction. Are the factory communications exhibited next to the pieces, or publicly elsewhere? i'd like to read them.
Scary Boots
2011-06-30 10:26:38

The Shovel is fantastic. Really simple change making it completely useless!
2011-06-30 14:40:45

This is brilliant
Rebecca Foster
2011-07-01 14:02:21

Laughing really hard here, the comb made in Kolkata pushes the product in a whole new direction. Porbably not very useful to shape your hair but somehow, well, unique!
2011-07-01 17:14:36

I found the walking stick to be a hilarious inversion of function--in order to appear cane-like the user must actively hold it up! Very clever. Of all of the objects, however, I feel that the comb is the least successful at becoming functionless--it just gains a new function as a bookmark, which I initially took it for. And the shovel might find employment in the uphill gardening field. The sunglasses, though, are pure genius.
2011-07-01 18:17:06

There's something really sexual about the shovel.
2011-07-01 22:44:16

Ok, I also had difficulty discerning what was wrong with the shoes. Regardless, this post totally made my day. SO COOL!
Damien Ivan
2011-07-01 23:25:22

Brilliant. The shovel and walking stick made my day.

Also, I am very happy that you credited the workers by name; lesser artists would have attempted to claim all of this as somehow their own.
Max Kennerly
2011-07-02 01:19:01

Interesting that with the possible exception of the walking stick, no one tried to improve their product.
2011-07-02 03:05:21

The lengths the craftsmen (and women perhaps) went to to make the objects unusable is really impressive. I wonder if this will have any residual effect in their workplaces.
2011-07-02 06:11:01

I have enjoyed pondering what I would create to make my functional art--quilting--become non-functional. Perhaps a Netted Quilt? What fun!
Nan Becker
2011-07-02 17:31:26

Utterly brilliant. Love it. Right made my day.
Andii Bowsher
2011-07-02 18:44:28

My favorit is the cane/ walking stick. What imagination by the factory worker. They are the artists.
2011-07-02 20:24:05

Nice stunt. Next.
2011-07-03 06:25:47

Simply lovely. Art needs to transcend utilitarianism, and taking everyday utilities and making them useless somehow seems to achieve this. I especially loved the pipe, the sunglasses and the comb.
2011-07-03 08:18:00

Terrific! I agree with Scary Boots. The part about how it made the worker feel to create this unusable object-- Good stuff. More please. Also interesting how many countries are represented in the fabrication.
2011-07-03 08:32:38

Wow.. it must be great to get paid to have other people do the work for you, spout some psychobabble and call it art...
2011-07-03 15:53:35

This concept is so clever. These everyday items, which we take for granted and give barely a second glance to have now been transformed into true works of art that challenge our thinking about their very use!
2011-07-04 07:19:27

Love the walking stick :)
2011-07-05 11:02:39

What makes me sad is the Chinese chair maker getting pleasure from destroying his work, so far removed from a craftsmen who would take pride in the finished job. A powerful piece that shows the burden modern manufacturing has placed on the world.
Pickle Design
2011-07-05 12:37:20

The walking stick gives me vertigo... very clever.
2011-07-05 12:52:49

Fantastic Project. What's wrong with the teapot in the shovel picture?
2011-07-05 15:19:02

Wonderful and thought-provoking about consumerism/function/aesthetics/work ethics etc
Sally K
2011-07-05 15:29:42

I've WORN shoes more illogical than those! I think Magritte would have approved of the pipe don't you think?!
alison Bates- Pingsweetie
2011-07-05 15:51:25

this is not a commmmment
2011-07-05 18:04:31

@Dorn: It's hard to make out, but perhaps the teapot's spout isn't hollow
Darren Bates
2011-07-05 20:24:02

Weirdly beautiful , sad and very interesting. The workers have so much creativity that I imagine is hardly put to use in their factory jobs.
2011-07-05 21:42:44

Would love to do this with a building - call me!
2011-07-06 06:56:35

At first I was disatisfied with the chair, but then realized the challenge in making a chair "un-sittable."
2011-07-06 08:22:19

I'm not sure the worker who did the chair really understood the concept. He could have made it with one leg too short so that you'd slide off, or spikes on the seat, no seat at all? I don't know, but simply making the product and then destroying it doesn't seem to have captured the idea, even if it was cathartic for him. Maybe it was lost in translation. My favourite are the sunglasses, subtle yet still very stylish.
2011-07-06 10:52:35

Instant Surrealism! Shouldn't the pipe be entitled 'Ceci n'pas une pipe?' and where's the fur-lined cup and saucer?
Keith Tricker
2011-07-06 12:27:33

[comment deleted by moderator]
2011-07-07 09:06:00

At first sight i thought ah nice, but on second glance I started to doubts if this project is sincere, to me the results of the project looks very much like its sprung from a single mind during a brainstorm rather then the ideas from completely different people, who aren't in the art scene, from different cultures.
If im wrong then I think its has been too safely curated. It doesnt show any extremes and its trying to show some sort if pseudo intellectual interventions that can likely appeal to an east London arty crowd. Though it makes one wonder if that would have been the right selection criteria when you start off a project like this.
2011-07-07 13:27:01

The glasses got me to view the article, the pipe was fun, but the nun-chuck cane is awesome!
Samuel Hay Dighan
2011-07-08 20:20:00

Fluxus makes a comback! Fantastic project and great use of alibaba!
Dale Peart
2011-07-09 16:02:08

What an inspiring idea! When every project is looking for the perfect or correct answer, a lot of insights can be gathered just from looking from the other side of perspective.
2011-07-11 21:01:36

That is just brilliant, I wish my employees were that smart ;)
2011-07-13 12:28:32

Must be nice to do something insane and be able to call it art.

so how much did you sell the results for, 10x the orginal price, 100?
Ben Nelson
2011-08-11 06:58:25

Been working through some of these today, awesome stuff. Massive respect and thanks for posting this up
2012-01-05 06:57:13

It's quite extraordinary that something so simple as a walking cane can be rather amazong and that one. Also I think that the untitled sunglasses is in a class for itself.

Fantastic project!
Tandblekning billigt
2012-03-12 16:47:12

Love the ladder :)
Linser Optiker
2012-07-11 09:55:54

Tell us what you think

What happens with my feedback?

We no longer require you to register and have a password in order to comment, simply fill in the form below. All comments are moderated so you may experience a short delay before your comment appears. CR encourages comments to be short and to the point. As a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.

Get the RSS Feed