Taxing art

What if objects could memorise their history? How can you see with your skin? Post Bank Holiday weekend, it’s questions like these that make you gently whisper ‘Why?’, and abruptly adopt the foetal position.

However, a new exhibition opening this week in Berlin will aim to tackle such mysteries, neatly coinciding with Berlin’s DMY International Design Festival.

Berlin-based conceptual product design practice Beta Tank’s exhibition poses (and asks) to many somewhat difficult questions through the clever and highly original objects it creates.

A sculpture or a chair?
A sculpture or a chair?

 Based on research of new technologies and social trends, the objects, according to organisers, inspires ‘debate beyond aesthetics or function.’

Many of the pieces in the show are featured in Beta Tank’s book, Taxing Art: When Objects Travel, which also relates the tale of these objects’ 12 000 km journey to test tax laws around the world, proving that – to paraphrase HM Revenue and Customs – perhaps tax is, all too often, rather taxing.

Spot the difference - tax.
Spot the difference – tax.

The objects exploring the effects of ‘art tax’ include such terrifying creations as the Mind Chair, which apparently changes your perception by ‘placing images in your mind through your back’, using a backrest which reacts to video input.

Another mind-bending chair on display will be the Gallia.  Its flexible pyramid elements mean that the configuration can be changed, in turn changing its legal tax status. If the pyramids forming the chair are configured in such a way as to make it an ‘art’ object, it can be sold at a lower VAT tariff and enjoy lower or no customs duties. 

Spreads from the Taxing Art book
Spreads from the Taxing Art book

The idea is that in exploring its functionality in this way, the creators are challenging ‘the legal boundaries of what constitutes art’, and demonstrating the effect tax laws have on the boundaries between what is ‘art’ and what is ‘design.’

Beta Tank: A Solo Show runs from 2 June – 3 July, at Gestalten Space, Sophie-Gips-Höfe, Sophienstraße 2110178 Berlin. Taxing Art: When Objects Travel, by Beta Tank is published this week from Gestalten Press, priced £26.99. DMY International Design Festival runs from 1-5 June

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