We don’t embroider cushions here: the Le Corbusier chaise longue from design icon to adult films

The legendary LC4 chaise longue by Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand is also one of the most-used fuck-props in adult films. The story is told through 192 images in the book by Augustine and Josephine Rockerbrune.

No longer active, Just Another Ikea Catalog was a tumblr blog which searched the world of amateur porn in search of sideboards and sofas by the Swedish brand. As well as being very funny, it was also useful. For every item present in the frame, the name and price were provided, in case anyone wanted to dash off to the nearest store. Although ironic comments have always regularly cropped up in the world of design regarding the furniture used in pornography, it was difficult to imagine an upgrade operation. And yet, We don't Embroider Cushions Here does just that, focusing on the forbidden appearances of a legendary piece of design: the LC4 chaise longue by Le Corbusier. One hundred and ninety-two racy images brought together in a book that for its impenetrability - vacuum-sealed as it is in a plastic bag - recalls the packaging of an equally hot editorial phenomenon, Sex by Madonna (1992).

But the aim of the curators Augustine and Josephine Rockebrune, sisters and artists, is not to show how in the space of just a few years, the sets of pornographic films have moved on from Billy bookcases to modernist design. No. The concept lying behind the research for We don’t Embroider Cushions Here is more complex. “We don’t embroider cushions here” is in fact the sexist answer with which, late afternoon on 14 October 1927, Le Corbusier dismissed the ambitions of Charlotte Perriand, who had come to the studio in Rue de Sèvres to present her portfolio. The architect hired her just a few months later, but only thanks to the excellent reviews for her show at the Salon d’Automne, which he visited, convincing him to make her head of production and interior design.

Now, as Le Corbusier kept a life-long record of every trace of his work – including the business card that Charlotte in any case managed to give him that inauspicious afternoon, and the contract which did not provide for a salary (nowadays a choice which is justified by “just think of the visibility”) – it is surprising that there is no documentation of the development of the LC4. What is certain is that it was created a year after the arrival of Charlotte at the studio. The suspicions of Augustine and Josephine regard a camouflaging of the contribution of Perriand, whether partial or total. Although Cassina, the current producer of the chaise, credits both as designers, together with Le Corbusier’s cousin, Pierre Jeanneret, many doubts still remain today. So much so that in the collective imagination, the chaise longue is by Le Corbusier.

The exceptional scoop at the foundation of We don’t Embroider Cushions Here, or rather, that the LC4 is one of the most-used fuck-props in adult films, makes this collection of steamy images a fascinating settling of scores between the celebrated designers. A modern story of revenge porn, which transfers the ingratitude and professional humiliation suffered by Charlotte directly to the LC4. Degraded to an object as promiscuous as the porn stars it hosts. Reduced, as it were, to embroidered cushions. An unexpected declaration which, in this period of #metoo and the breaking of silence, transforms We don’t Embroider Cushions Here into a product of extreme topicality more for reasons of timing than for solidarity for the victims of sexual abuse.

This notwithstanding, We don’t Embroider Cushions Here is also, unwillingly, a design success story. “You can’t invent a design”,said the English author D.H. Lawrence. “You recognize it, in the fourth dimension. That is, with your blood and your bones, as well as with your eyes”. In other words, photogenicness is fundamental, but the true value of an object lies in the discovery that its use and possession allows access to a kind of “augmented reality” of oneself and the environment in which one is, thanks to a blend of beauty, status symbol and structural fetishism. Characteristics which the LC4 appears to greatly exacerbate. And, as it is based on pleasure, the red-light industry quickly understood these qualities. A little like the case of the Peacock chair in Emmanuelle in 1974, the rattan chair whose fame is now practically inseparable from the film.

And if there were, in the fervent 1970s, manifestations calling for the burning of the Peacock, as a symbol of the commercialization of women, the network does not appear to have noted them. It is also probable that, in 2018, the year of its one-hundredth anniversary, the LC4 runs the risk of suffering the same fate. It is unusual for design to provoke social resentment. However, the question we should ask, in light of the revelations in We don’t Embroider Cushions Here, is whether lying on the LC4 means betraying Charlotte. Responding to a similar question – on what to do now, with the art created by these monstrous men who have caused such suffering in the world of cinema – Claire Dereder, in the pages of The Paris Review claimed that in the end, we are all monsters to some extent, and that art always involves a lot of suffering. This evidently also goes for masterpieces of modernist design.

Book title:
We don't Embroider Cushions Here
Edited by:
Augustine e Josephine Rockebrune
Èdition Monumental
39 €
Graphic design:
Boris Datore

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