From the Frugal to the Ornate: Stories of the Seat in India by Hanno

The project, From the Frugal to the Ornate: Stories of the Seat in India, investigates and spotlights the seat’s relationship with its sitter, and other people in its periphery. The attempt is to crosslink disciplines, cut across histories and geographies, and unearth stories of the hidden and essential, and thereby unravel nuanced insights. The project consists of a 264 page book, a mini exhibit, posters and an interactive website. All of these deploy a number of devices to ensure that the complex range of archival content is accessible for a range of audiences: the casual reader, the design aficionado, the cultural historian as also the museum professional. ‘

8 key chapters in the book elaborate on the core themes used to deconstruct the seat and weave intertextually, making their way from the past to the present and from the present to the past. The chapters are: From the Basic Paatlo to the Ceremonial Pidha: Vernacular Seats of India; A Queen’s Leg, A Makara’s Gaping Jaw, An Acanthus Leaf, A Ball & Claw: The Seat in Colonial India; Power, Posture & Privilege: The Politics of the Seat in India; Citadels of Modernism: Monumental Markers of a National Vision; Journeys towards a Spiritual Modernism: A Political Stance or a Sustainable Ethic?; Poetry in the Common and Everyday: The Lure of the Ordinary; The Post Seat: An Explosion of Pluralisms; A Reflexive and Romantic Turn: The Neomodern Reaction. These chapters are visually represented through charts in the book; a pullout poster; and an interactive website.

Within the book, intertextual and indexical devices, such as chair icon + chapter number / page number (eg: 12 / p.58) in the margins of essay pages encourage a cross connection between chapters. These also allow a deep detailed dive into the marked content, allow for visual storytelling and also make key ideas more accessible to a general audience.

The website not only presents the 8 chapters as themes, but also presents an alternative selection of views - either as a listing of 100 chairs in a grid, or as an interactive, playful visualisation. A ‘stories’ tab invites participation from viewers to share anecdotes and observations. The intent is to encourage discovery, self curation of the content and ultimately look at seats and seating in a new light.