Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ikea goes Høllywood

IKEA Heights from DaveAOK on Vimeo.

And I thought Ikea drama meant choosing whether to go with the Tylosänd or the Hovås.
Silly mig!
Winkingly subversive filmmaker David Seger and a troupe of equally naughty actors have pulled off a feat at least as daring as assembling an Ikea commode without instructions. He's filmed a web-only soap opera, Ikea Heights, inside one of the Swedish retailer's cavernous stores in Burbank, CA.
Here's the subversive part. They filmed with hand-held cameras during regular store hours, using the display areas for sets. They never sought corporate permission. Confused customers occasionally wandered through the frame, perhaps wondering why a couple appeared to be arguing amid the rumpled sheets of a Tromsö bed.
You can check out more of their cheeky yet cheesy webisodes at
Last time I browsed there were four installments. Something tells me there might not be a fifth, now that Seger has gone public with an interview in the LA Times.
We all have our Ikea weaknesses, right? For me, the call of the meatball sometimes proves irresistible. If it isn't the cheap yet tasty eats, which I wolf down in a noisy cafeteria like a prisoner sprung from hard labour, it's the cheap and transiently stylish furniture. Let she who hasn't solved a home decorating problem with an unfinished pine end table throw the first Allan key. I love my Ivar shelves, reliable companions in every place I've lived from student dive to second home.
But my relationship with the Swedish sower of random diacritical marks is conflicted. They use too much melamine, a material that will ride out nuclear winter in the landfills of the world. Ditto extruded plastic. And they use some kind of mind control to make us buy vases and throw pillows that we almost instantly regret once we get home. (I think it's got something to do with the smell of the freshly baked cinnamon buns, which, frankly, taste like cardboard.)
I digress.
What delights about Seger's stealthy cinematic gambit is that he surveyed the Swedish giant and used its limitless space, endless room settings and dazed shuffling consumers for his own purpose. I'm not sure that Ikea Heights is art, but I'm pretty sure it is genius.

My posting prompted a response from a former Ikea wage slave.

"I assume this will die on the vine, as IKEA is notoriously litigious. They get cranky if IKEA isn't fully capitalized, let alone the interior of a store *GASP* is filmed by some scruffy artsy type. Scruffy artsy types are only permitted if they're photographed for the catalogue...

Despite the thin white melamine foil veneer on the company, and it's image as the Swedish themed Socialist Worker's Paradise, the truth is pretty far removed. Environmental policies, while noble, are pretty much undone by the toxic materials used to construct their goods, the maufacturing processes of developing nations they're built in, and by extension the high carbon costs of transporting those charming $2.00 brightly coloured acrylic fridge magnets from halfway across the face of the planet. The waste, if those with an actual environmental conscience could see it, is appalling.

And Ingvar Kamprad help you if you say the U word. (That's 'union', in case you were guessing).

The very least of their sins is feeding the growing worldwide consumer mentality hyped up on a cocktail of cheap, disposable goods and immediate gratification.

I've seen some pretty cynical things done in the name of The Big Blue Box while I was there, but here's what I like to call "Travel Tips From Those Who Know". Now, it would be in breech of a non-disclosure agreement to say why I don't do what I don't do. But I don't do what I don't do for good reasons. Here's a couple of the highlights.

- Don't eat the meatballs. Just... *shudder* trust me.
- Don't buy light fixtures. In fact, don't let your neighbors by light fixtures. Again, you're just going to have to take my word for it.
- Don't even TOUCH any toy, stuffy or other brightly colored object that might appeal to children. You don't want to know where they've been. It's unspeakable.
- And while we're on the subject of the little ones, don't check them into the Smaland® kiddie area.

Shame about the film going public, and thereby slamming the door shut on that project. It's definitely an idea with (I'm sorry, I can't contain it) Nordic designed, sensibly constructed, flat packaged, affordably priced, and if it can be helped, modular, legs.

Recovering Ikean

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