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Parting Shots: Forget the gnome—here's to the roaming plastic chair



Think of the relaxation a simple plastic chair, such as this one in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, can provide thousands of travelers from all over the world throughout the years.



The original Monobloc.

As summertime comes around again and IMM readers vacation across the globe, keep your eyes open for familiar injection molded furniture.

You may think nothing of seeing them out in front of the local hardware store, discount shopping center, or even as dining room furniture among college students, but the trusty, inexpensive, injection molded plastic chair has become the subject matter of Jens Thiel’s website, www.functionalfate.org. The stackable, washable, inexpensive Monobloc chairs debuted in the early 1980s and are manufactured from one 5.5-lb piece of polypropylene in a single process. Despite the widespread popularity, plastic chairs have been banned in some cities, including Thiel’s hometown of Erfurt, Germany.

Thiel came up with the idea of documenting the story of these chairs in 2002 when he saw an art gallery employee sitting in a white plastic chair, surrounded by expensive works of art for sale. Years later, pictures and stories of hundreds of chairs spotted in remote and popular destinations all over the world have been posted on his website. Among these images are Monoblocs used as wheelchairs, as “ferry” seats on flat boats, or bolted on plywood with large wheels, sans legs, as a horse cart.

This website is the first step in Thiel’s Monobloc Project, which involves a museum exhibition and the book, “Monobloc—An Anatomy of the World Chair,” due out in early 2008, and a feature-length documentary film.

So, while enjoying well-deserved time away from the plastics industry, take a moment to notice how this plastic object has become an unappreciated element of our daily life. Perhaps you can send in an image of your own chair spotting!

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