Would Oscar Wilde Be a Good Kitchen Design Reviewer?

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We're not sure how you even get to asking a question like this. Once asked, though, it's certainly thought-provoking. Jed Perl writes in The New Republic about a new Museum of Modern Art exhibit called "Counter Space: Design in the Modern Kitchen." His first thought is this: "If Walter Benjamin were alive today, would he be writing a little essay about [this exhibit]?"

The German intellectual, of course, did have some interesting ideas about art and modernism--so that's not so far-fetched. What Perl wonders is if Benjamin would bring in his tendency to "give a Marxist interpretation to any phenomenon that interested him, whether cultural or literary or historical." Then a page-click later Perl is onto something slightly different--playwright Oscar Wilde's take on artistic formalism.

Wilde may ... show us what is wrong with "Counter Space," because from his vantage point the elegant formalist look of the show is merely a cover-up, a mask for what amounts to a sociological literalism. Come to think of it, maybe Oscar Wilde, not Walter Benjamin, would be the ideal reviewer for "Counter Space." I can imagine him anatomizing the artistic virtues of a tinned steel collapsible salad basket before dismissing the entire show as faux formalism and advising everybody to head to Ikea--where, if realism is your thing, the stuff is not only for sale but is actually affordable.

So now that you've got that, you'll know what to ask yourself the next time you're pondering a countertop: What would Wilde say?

And, because the Wire would never leave you standing in the middle of a kitchen like that without an answer...a sample of what Wilde  might say:

Jack: How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can't make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Algernon: Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.

There. Don't you feel better about your day now?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.