In a corner of the showroom of Floyd, the Detroit-based furniture company located in Eastern Market, you’ll find a collection of colorful and curious-looking housewares on a handful of shelves and tables—kitchen utensils that look like alien spaceships, a kettle with a bird whistle, watches whose faces have no numbers, a ruler with actual flower stems for hatch marks.
This offbeat collection of products is part of Ecce Pomo, a postmodern popup taking place this September during Detroit Month of Design that’s part gallery, part retail. And it hopes to showcase a style that has little history in Detroit.
Ecce Pomo (Latin-ish for “Behold Postmodern”) is curated by Joe Posch, owner of the housewares and furniture store Hugh in Midtown. That store describes itself as selling products with a “classic modern aesthetic,” but Posch has been interested in postmodern wares for some time. He grew up in the 1980s and remembers being intrigued by a stainless steel kettle his parents owned that was shaped like a cone and had a ball knob on the lid. (Designed by Aldo Alessi, “Il Conico” is now part of Ecce Pomo.)
For the past 10 years, Posch has been studying and collecting postmodern objects, fascinated with the idea that there can be more to an object than simply its function.
“Objects evoke feelings and emotional reactions, they can delight or offend,” he says. “Postmodern designers would ask questions about the importance of function and whether there is such a thing as good or bad taste.”
Or, to restate the old debate, for modernism “less is more”; for postmodernism, “less is a bore.”
The collection at Ecce Pomo features many of these vintage items from the 1980s. There’s ballpoint pens, designed to commemorate the opening of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, that have an open structure so you can see the interior mechanisms.
There’s the parabolic colander by Philippe Starck, which looks as much like an art piece as it does utensil. Same goes for the Starck-designed juicer, which looks like a long three-legged spider that Posch describes as “minimally functional.”
“Starck wasn’t interested in making a juicer. He was interested in starting a conversation,” Posch says.
Some of these pieces are still being produced, others are collectors items. There’s also contemporary, postmodern-inspired products.
Everything is for sale. The inventory starts at $12 and there’s a lot for under $50. The more expensive items, like the Alessi bird kettle, go for between $200 and $300, with the most expensive item (the Starck colander) going for $500.
The popup has been going on just over a week and Posch has already sold a number of pieces—and gotten some fun reactions. Aside from a handful of buildings, Detroit doesn’t have much of a legacy of postmodern design, and visitors often have strong reactions to objects they may not have had much interaction with. Which is precisely the point of postmodernism.
The popup feels a little like a gallery. While there’s prices listed for everything, there’s also gallery-like labels detailing the year the item was fabricated, who it was designed by, and a bit of history. And of course, there’s Posch nearby to provide visitors with more context and information.
“Design stores are places where you can go, explore, touch, experience, and see objects in three dimensions and examine details,” he says. “With Detroit Month of Design, I don’t think it’s necessarily only about Detroit things being highlighted, but also people in Detroit highlighting design.”