Most of the products with which we surround ourselves have been classfied by appearance: white goods are large domestic appliances such as washing machines, fridge/freezers and ovens; brown goods (a term based on the bakelite casings they once used) are smaller devices — countertop machines such as radios, your teasmaid or your Nespresso; shiny goods are (being shiny) the most exciting — consumer electronics such as camcorders, mobile phones or robot vacuum cleaners (in fact this last could make a claim for sitting in several categories, or even provoking a new classification (infrared goods?), showing that there is an amount of bleed-through between camps.
A picture of the world painted in these colours would be unremittingly drab, and today they are largely inaccurate descriptors – the terms were coined in an earlier era, one in which sparkling white was considered the necessary associate of proper hygiene, the technological future was phrased in soporific silver-grey and polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride (Bakelite) could only run a spectrum of umber to auburn. To see quite how different things are now you only needed to pay a visit to photographer Dan Tobin Smith’s East London studio last week. On entry to the open-plan, double-height space, you stepped into a rectilinear clearing amongst a sprawl of chromatically arranged junk, things piled upon things, stuff stacked up against effects and bits jostling bobs in highly ordered disarray. Every type of item was accounted for, from computers to cookware. These shaded from puce to purple to indigo and off into the marines, waxy black along one back wall and with a corona of white where the tide approaches the irregular path provided for onlookers.