October 1, 2010
cell bulge
Soft Cell (source)


In 1839. Dr John Connolly, an employee of Hanwell Asylum, England, devised a means to end the use of mechanical restraint within psychiatry with the introduction of cushion-lined, soundproof cells where patients could be confined.


The hard plastered wall—the familiar boundary that defines and protects our vicinity—begs to be left alone, with the exception of an occasional punctuation by a light-switch or socket. The padded wall, on the other hand, invites interaction. From a mere touch to the violent banging of a skull, the soft wall is ultimately undisturbed by the patient and the patient unharmed by the wall.


Arguably, softness is reminiscent of amicable matters–a kitten, a cloud, a rabbit’s tail. However, the padded cell presents an instance where soft associations are transformed into aggressive ones. The soft cell becomes even more unnerving than its hard alternative. Although the softness of the interior serves the good-natured purpose of defending the wall from the occupier and the occupier from the wall, the padded chamber potentially evokes emotions that we deeply fear. It may serve as a reminder of permanent confinement and the frightening prospect of anticipated violence, brutal suppression by the suffocation of eternal seclusion and the paralysis of a straight jacket. It is the room’s innocent characteristics that evoke these fears.


Is it more frightening, then, that popular methods of restraint have subsequently shifted from the manipulation of a patient’s physical boundaries to their mental ones? The softness of the padded cell is replaced by the gentle grade of sedation.


Joy Natapa Sriyuksiri


Pouring a Quilted Wall, Kenzo Unno (source)


Fabric forming produces inflated pillowy concrete. The flexibility of the mold reveals the malleable moments in the life of the material. As the woven container holds the mixture of cement and aggregate, restraints act with force to tame the mass as it bulges. In this instance, mold and material work together to create form, resulting in the hardened appearance of softness.


Erandi de Silva



Edited by Erandi de Silva


One Response to “SOFT”

  • Erandi de Silva says:


    I like this juxtaposition. We both wrote about subverting the language of comfort. Yourself through the the investigation of soft entrapments and myself through the entrapment of softness.



    « previous post

    next post »