These three posters take a look at the aesthetics of ‘cheap’ stuff, sold at markets in Estonia, both online and on the street. From these markets, I have collected images of objects that are low-price, therefore often presumed to have low design value as well. It is quite telling that a crochet tablecloth on platforms selling second-hand is not called ‘design’ at all. Or the fully decorated living rooms on real estate sites were not arranged by ‘designers’. And the dresses I have photographed around fruit vendors can’t be bought from ‘designer stores’.
I’m interested in what kind of design values this cheap market aesthetics does embody, even if still invalidated by both market capitalism and the Western design canon.
Market 1: the online second-hand
The few times I have moved to another country, I quickly looked for the local ‘ebay’. I think most countries have at least one of those ‘monster’ second-hand online markets where you can buy and sell anything. Such places are very messy and complex, but over time I came to extract a feeling for the local material world: the aesthetic history of the area, the emotional geography of what’s currently hot and what’s not.
To deep-dive in these markets – as I did with my research on Estonian osta.ee – it takes a lot of scrolling, but I have seen things that I wasn’t accustomed to, that surprised my image-fatigued eyes as a rare treat in my otherwise screen-full life.
It’s fascinating how disoriented I felt in the middle of the different patterned fabrics and clothing I saw on these sites when at the same time, I’m capable of judging a pair of jeans on a webshop only by the colour of its seams. Patterns have quietly been around me all my life, yet my eyes are so untrained in looking at such ornamentation, that I could only guess which of the patterns are outdated or currently trending. When starting this research, I wouldn’t even know if or how to prefer one pattern over another.