The Flyswatter

“Did we need this upgrade for a creature with a lifespan of 25 days?”

by Sarah Alfarhan

Credit: Sarah Alfarhan

Since last year, everyone in my family’s house has been spending a lot of time at the washbasin near the entryway where we leave our shoes before stepping inside. One day while washing my hands, I noticed a flyswatter hanging from a hook by the mirror. It’s plastic, and the part that is typically square is instead a flower. A tulip? Or is it a rose? It is hard to tell. The handle is a stem and has two leaves on its sides. It must have been there all along, but I’d never paid attention to it. Upon a closer look, I realized that there were actually two flyswatters, probably sold as a pair. One is a red tulip, and the other is a pink tulip.

“Mom, did you buy these?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“From where?”

“I don’t remember, some local market.”

The price stickers on the flyswatters are yellowed, almost brown. I immediately started listing my associations with the word “tulip” in my head:

  • Tulip — my friend back in Sharjah and the only person I ever met with that name.
  • A summer when a cousin showed me how to draw a tulip in sand.
  • Buying tulip bulbs for my dad’s garden when I was in the Netherlands — Kuwait’s weather killed them all!

Afterward, I looked up flyswatters. I wanted to find if there are other shapes besides the floral kind. The flyswatter was originally named the Fly-killing Device, an invention from 1900 by Robert R. Montgomery. As I researched, I learned about many tools and ways of killing flies. There’s rolled-up tape, bottle traps, and bug zappers. A horrifying iteration of fly executions is the electric tennis racket. Did we need this upgrade for a creature with a lifespan of 25 days?

The tulip form could be an attempt to make an object double as decor when not in use. It is screaming for a coating of glitter or a glow-in-the-dark layer. Kill tiny flies but make it kitsch. It is an excellent example of the market that sells “doubles as,” “four different uses,” and “you’ll never buy so-and-so again.” I see through the marketing pitch; maybe that’s why I don’t see myself buying the tulip flyswatter.

🪰

+++

Still Processing is a collection of work from the participants of the two-week 2021 Design Writing & Research Summer Intensive at the School of Visual Arts. For more information about our Summer Intensive as well as our two-semester Master’s program, please visit our website or email us at designresearch@sva.edu

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
SVA MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism

SVA MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism

We’re a two-semester MA program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City dedicated to the study of design, its contexts and consequences. Aka DCrit. ✏️🔍💡