Looking deeply into the everyday with aa//ee's Broadsheet

Targeting ‘To Go’
By ANNIE LARMON  |  January 19, 2011

The Dixie cup is the first object investigated in aa//ee's inaugural issue of Broadsheet, a quarterly newsletter exploring the historical narratives behind mundane objects of industrial design. The project aims to illuminate the ingenuity behind designs so commonplace they become overlooked, or invisible, and to promote critical thinking about our designed world. The pseudonym of collaborative partners Carl Haase and Marieke Van Der Steenhoven, aa//ee is cleverly drawn from the repeating letters in their respective names. The maiden issue will be featured in the upcoming exhibit "Storytellers" at USM's Kate Cheney Chappell Center for Book Arts alongside works by Greta Bank, Patrick Corrigan, Adriane Herman, Charlie Hewitt, Lisa Pixley, Alex Rheault, and David Wolfe. The Phoenix sat down with Haase and Van Der Steenhoven to discuss the first issue of Broadsheet.

CARL, YOU HAVE BEEN MEDITATING ON THE VALUE OF THE OVERLOOKED FOR SOME TIME NOW — YOUR PRINTS OF PLASTIC LIDS AND DISCARDED CANDY WRAPPERS ASK THE VIEWER TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE AESTHETIC QUALITIES OF AN OBJECT CLASSIFIED AS TRASH EVEN BEFORE IT HAS BEEN USED. HOW DID STORY TELLING COME INTO THE PICTURE? CH: I began the lids project in college. I was collecting trash for a project and became fascinated by objects that never biodegrade, and then by the design and ingenuity that goes into the mundane. I started researching the patents of different products and the stories of their inventors, and collecting vintage paper cups. I discovered there is a $3 billion business for lids, a product with essentially anonymous creators. The Dixie cups were a transition from the lids project. By combining antiquated design and technology with new media, I hope to give someone pause, to think about how these things got all the way here, how something starts as a health issue and ends up everywhere. I'm interested in the simplest objects — the square-bottomed paper bag, or the little plastic table in a pizza box.

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE "INVISIBILITY" OF OBJECTS SUCH AS THE DIXIE CUP. MVDS: When you are familiar with an object you take it for granted, when the paper cup became synonymous with the daily action of drinking water it became an habitual object, and thus an unexamined one. The invisibility of the paper cup is its ubiquity.

CH: These are objects that hold everyday functions, some throwaway some not, that have amazing histories of origin. Some in social concerns of health, and others in creating efficiencies in industrial production (paper bag, cardboard box) that have changed how we interact in our consumer lives.

HOW ARE YOU HOPING TO RECAST THE DIXIE CUP? WHAT DO YOU SEE AS POTENTIAL IN INVITING A CRITICAL LOOK INTO THE MUNDANE? CH: The awareness of the interaction with what you're consuming: its function, design, and how it got into your hands.

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