L'art pour l'art: the Purity of Chindogu

Article by Astoria Jellett

Dear working artists: Imagine the freedom to design an object without the intention of selling it. Art for art’s sake.

That’s what chindogu is: design anarchy. A chindogu is a gadget that, on the surface, seems like an ingenious solution to an everyday problem, but put to actual use, would never work because it either causes other problems, or it’s just plain embarrassing. It is a useful object that is, effectively, useless. Founder Kenji Kawakami’s word for it is “unuseless.”

Examples: mini mop mittens for your cat. A “butter stick” – butter in a lip balm-like tube you can simply rub on toast. A hat with a roll of toilet paper on it for that nasty cold of yours. You get the idea.


But before you start drawing up your ingenious unuseless idea, check the design anarchy rules:

1.     A chindogu cannot actually be used. You can’t rightfully call it useless, since it does solve a problem, but put to actual use it must become obsolete. If you end up using it everyday, you have failed to make chindogu.

2.     But a chindogu must be possible to make. It cannot exist simply as an idea; you have to be able to make it.

3.     A chindogu embodies anarchy. To quote the official chindogu website: “Chindogu are man-made objects that have broken free from the
chains of usefulness. They represent freedom of thought and action: the
freedom to challenge the suffocating historical dominance of conservative
utility; the freedom to be (almost) useless.”

4.     They are everyday tools, almost a language of their own. Chindogu cannot be specialized equipment that only someone of a certain profession would understand.

5.     Similarly, chindogu must be accessible to all, without prejudice. Male, female, young, old, Japanese, Chinese.

6.     Chindogu is free from the sickness of commerce. “If you accept money for one,” says Kawakami,
”you surrender your purity.”

7.     Humor is a delightful by-product, but not the intention of chindogu. Chindogu must be created primarily to solve a common problem.

8.     Chindogu are innocent. There is no political aim, no social commentary.

9.     They are not crude: no cheap sexual innuendos or sick jokes. Chindogu adhere to “standards of social decency.”

10. They cannot be patented. “Chindogu are offerings to the rest of the world - they are not
therefore ideas to be copyrighted, patented, collected and owned.” They are free.

Article by Astoria Jellett

Images by chindogu.com