During Melbourne Design Week 2017, the Chinaman’s File Rocking Chair, designed for Broached Commissions, was on show at the National Gallery of Victoria, as part of the ‘Creating the Contemporary Chair’ exhibition, curated by the NGV‘s Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture.
Chinaman’s File is a rocking chair designed for the roughly 16500 Chinese gold diggers who walked from Robe in South Australia to the Victorian gold fields during the mid 19th Century.
“To reach the gold fields, they would load the heavier equipment onto drays, for the trek could be several hundred kilometers. The Chinese men would travel on foot in single file, each carrying supplies in two baskets hanging from the ends of a long pole over their shoulders. Each man could carry up to 78 kilograms – more than their average body weight” (Hill, 2010, Page 116)
Because of these unusual processions, ‘single file’ became known as ‘Chinaman’s File’ during this period.
These men were economic nomads, moving from digging to digging in the search of their fortune. During these grueling journeys across a forbidding and alien countryside it is likely that these men would have longed for the comforts of home – familiar food, familiar domesticity, the welcoming embrace of a mother, or the irreplaceable touch of a lover.
Chinaman’s File Rocking Chair was designed to simulate the rock experienced by a baby while being walked by its mother: each rock of the chair is designed to subject the user to the same arc and cadence that a baby experiences during its mother’s single step. In theory this action will produce a feeling of contentment that we have not felt since our infancy.
Creating the Contemporary Chair presented arresting and provocative chair designs by some of the most interesting Australian and international designers practising in recent decades. Comprising thirty-five new acquisitions supported by Gordon Moffatt AM, this exhibition explored the significance of chairs as markers of design evolution and as objects embedded with meaning, expression, experimentation and utility. Works on display ranged in date from 1980 to 2016 and included examples of both mass-produced and studio-created chairs sourced from around the globe.
180 St Kilda Road,
17 March – 15 October 2017
National Gallery of Victoria
Image Credit – National Gallery of Victoria