Rollator drawings, 30th September – 4th October 2010:
Continuing my appreciation of the aesthetics of seemingly ugly and mundane artefacts we associate with ageing, I investigated a second rollator.
This was a contemporary model. It had a clear plastic tray, a wire shopping basket and four wheels rather than three for extra stability. It was squatter, sturdier and in some ways even uglier than the earlier three wheel model. The hidden complexities and detailing within the design meant it took much longer to draw than I had anticipated. I intentionally drew it from the position someone would see it if they were approaching it to use it.
The moulded plastic on the handles had been textured for extra grip and had an organic quality. The bolts and connections remained evident but were more refined.
What I found was how much I appreciated the qualities that I had previously missed. The curve of the front bumper and the connection on the front wheel shafts were particularly elegant and the sweep of the handles, handgrips and ergonomic brakes were much more aesthetically thought out than I had initially noticed. The light reflecting on the clear plastic tray formed bright curves and rainbow patterns in contrast to the opaque density of the black mat handles and shelf. The network formed by the basket was highly detailed and the intersecting areas had been welded neatly to form the grid of the shopping basket.
Interestingly, on the back of the rear metal legs were two orange rectangular strips of reflective material to ensure safety at night. The four wheels were not as fat as in the earlier model and the two at the back remained fixed whilst the two front wheels acted more like a shopping trolley.
Other things had not changed. The cuffs around the wheels remained the same, the mechanism for folding had not changed and the brake system appeared to be similar. The handles used to adjust the height of had become elongated and needed less effort to use.
Perhaps because these objects are so new, they are too close to us to be perceived as historical objects so have yet to become ‘artefacts’ i.e. something worthy of being presented within the auspices of a curated museum display where they would be expected to attract crowds who wish to engage with them. What would a member of the public hope to see when looking at an object such as this?
When objects are utilitarian, essential to many and in such common usage they can easily become invisible. The rollator is associated with assisting those who do not suffer from a terrible incurable disease but simply aids those who are just ageing as we all are, and need a little extra help. Is it because this is so uneventful, so usual we are not interested in looking at items associated with this natural process? Is it because the materials are thought of as utilitarian and not beautiful, or is it because we choose to turn away and not see something we find distasteful or fear but certainly do not welcome and embrace – the everyday process of ageing?