ISSN : 2266-6060

Instructions for non-use

notanashtray

In domestic spaces, as well as in public settings, explicit instructions for use directly attached to objects are rare. They are usally written on a separate document, possibly on the package protecting objects before their use. We surely all have the painful experience of this distance between things and words that describe it in details, list the human attitudes that its good behavior requires and define the frameworks of suitable actions that one could inflict on it. A separation so cruel, after months of peaceful use, when the mechanism jams and we are unable to remember where the precious instructions have been exactly placed. But we also know how unbearable the world would be if each thing, each place, and why not each person, were accompanied by detailed explanatory texts. Insomuch that the list of possible explanations may never ends.
As often, such opportunities are restricted to crisis situations. Situations that may invite to produce, instead of instructions for use, instructions for non-use, which specify how not to use a thing or another. In a way, Margitte’s famous ‘this is not a pipe’ informed the viewer that trying to smoke his painting would be unfortunate. In a more polished language, it’s a similar and somehow complementary message that can be read at the bottom of the trees at the entrance of this italian airport: this pot is not an ashtray.