Use and lack thereof (i.e. the useless) represent one of the most important dichotomies in our lives. This separation is not just terminological or conceptual. It concretely lives in different sets of things, the useful and the useless, which strongly differ in forms, spaces, times, and people.
We love useful things. They have a clear, visible impact in our lives. They are our chairs, our cars, our restaurants, our delivery services, our games, our news websites, our printers. Useful things take a great variety of forms, designed to specifically suit their purpose and to be as good as possible at it. They are produced, are bought and are consumed in our houses, our offices, our factories, our shops. They live in our everyday, all day, all week, all year. They are produced by everyone, normal people, engineers, designers, workers.
We find the useful to be so important that we have given it a natural, unlimited right to take any form, any role, any space in our lives as it likes. And so it did. As it happens, in an everyday so pervasively full of usefulness, we began seeing the useless as different, dissonant. Its lack of immediate use appeared as wasteful in contrast to the useful, it made us feel uncomfortable. This especially if both came in the same form, too much juxtaposition to handle for us.
That is why we have decided to clearly separate the useless from the useful, by constraining the first into few, dedicated forms, spaces, times, people. Now we can be sure absolutely sure not to mix it up with the useful, serious, important stuff. We have even found a label to described this ghettoed, socially-acceptable uselessness: art. Art can take only very few canonical forms, such as pictures, drawings, performances, text. Art has to live in dedicated spaces, consumed in museums, galleries, sold at specific auctions and fairs. Art should be enjoyed in our free time at best, rarely or never at worst. Art is to be produced by artists and intellectuals, living weird lives out of the normal.
All uselessness that does not conform to these limitations and goes outside its boundaries is despised, thought to be stupid, meaningless, wrong. The useless cannot dare to take any of the million other forms we have built in time for the useful. A dictionary, for example, is a format which must be useful. Show our Randictionary to anyone you know. They will awkwardly smile at it. They will ask “What is the point of this?” and follow up with “Don’t tell me that you actually paid for it”. It’s wrong, stupid, childish, worthless.
This is why we end up never creating (even ideating) a huge (infinite?) number of useless, potentially valuable things. We deprive so many forms of the possibility of being useless, because of their “intrinsic” useful nature. We force them to have a direct use and reject the idea that they could be expressing a concept, telling a story, transmitting something, just like art does in its few allowed forms.
Our goal at commonuseless is to develop and celebrate uselessness in all forms, especially those you think that must be useful. Uselessness must take over all those formats and structures which are the most practical, useful, important in our lives. We unseal them, disrupt them, change them, readapt them, often leaving a bitter aftertaste of wrongfulness and incompleteness. We want to force a reinterpretation of the object, finding new meaning, new use, new coherence for it. We mix opposites, we take away a piece, we swap. We build something new, absurd, parodic, unique, valuable with it. All to express a concept, tell a story, transmit something, or to do nothing at all.