In Search of a Lost Screw

“In one of his books Morelli talks about a Neapolitan who spend years sitting in the doorway of his house looking at a screw on the ground. At night he would pick it up and put it under his mattress. The screw was at first a laugh, a jest, a communal irritation, a neighbourhood council, a mark of civil duties unfulfilled, finally a shrugging of shoulders, peace, the screw was peace, no one could go along the street without looking out of the corner of his eye at the screw and feeling that it was peace. The fellow drop dead of a stroke and the screw disappeared as soon as the neighbours got there. One of them has it; perhaps he takes it out secretly and looks at it, puts it away again and goes off to the factory feeling something that he does not understand, an obscure reproval. He only calms down when he takes out the screw and looks at it, stays looking at it until he hears footsteps and has to put it away quickly. Morelli thought that the screw must have been something else, a god or something like that. Too easy a solution. Perhaps the error was in accepting the fact that the object was a screw simply because it was shaped like a screw. Picasso takes a toy car and turns it into the chin of a baboon. The Neapolitan was most likely an idiot, but he also might have been the inventor of a world. From the screw to an eye, from an eye to a star…”

Cort?°zar, J (1998) Hopscotch. London: Harvill Press

Clearly, the Neapolitan was the victim of seduction. Wondering what type of screw could have such a power, I embarked upon the search of at least one of the qualities that would make me look at and keep a simple screw. DIY shops and designer shops were no good as the screws came in boxes of indistinguishable hundreds. My screw had to be noticeable, if not unique. [note: the screw is already becoming MY screw]. I looked for designers (Alessi, Starck, Kartel, Newson¬Ö) in the hope of them being interested in such a modest object. Corkscrews is the closer they get to it and the cheerfulness of that object slightly defeats the purpose of my quest. I am not looking for a gloomy object, but one that strangely leads the owner astray.

The internet is always a good source for unexpected and inexplicable things. I now know everything about screws, or rather, fasteners and bolts, in all their shapes, heads types, measurements and history but haven¬ít found what I am looking for. I suddenly have a lucky thought and, in the brink of despair I decide to adjectivise the word screw with artistic qualities. I type ‘bright coloured screw’ -always in singular- into Google and what I get is not altogether hopeless. The brightness, the size, the shape of the head and the narrowness of its spiral indentation have something fascinating about them:

I think I would like to buy one of these and further the experiment by furtively looking at it time and time again…