Conflict between people and furniture

DThe saddest statement you can make about furniture is probably this: that the armchairs or lamps are actually works of art, expressive sculptures that you can sit on, more or less randomly, or with which you can illuminate a room. The statement is not only sad when it is a pretense. It is even more sad when it is true, that is, when a room is so perfectly decorated that one does not want to disturb it as a person. Or if you hardly dare to sit down, because the contact with the perfect shape of an armchair makes the imperfection of the human body particularly visible and noticeable.

Konstantin Grcic, the best known German furniture designer, has always had a talent for both: to perfection. And for the critique of the perfect form. His Sam Son chair is such a solemn tribute to 60s pop that you want to dress appropriately before you sit on it. Whereas “Chair_One”, his most famous design, will not be beautiful, but directly ugly, a provocation for the good taste, a thing made of metal and concrete, which you not only sit on, but also think about sitting and then get up and should continue. And the May 1st lamp looks more like a tool: a cone that lights up, with an out of proportion hook on top – you hang this lamp where you have something to mount; or you just lay them on the floor and say you do not care about more beautiful, decorative things.

Two chairs chained together


Two chairs chained together
:


Photo: Florian Boehm

So when the Berlin Haus am Waldsee offered him the opportunity to design an exhibition, Grcic could only have had his more beautiful and more provocative designs equated and commented on; plus perhaps a few exhibition boards with reports from his workshop – if only because Grcic insists that the result of his work looks sculptural; but that in the beginning there is always the question of whether one can completely rethink the elementary needs of sitting, lying down, relaxing. The fact that this is not a pose, but a process that sometimes leads to amazing results, is proven e.g. of “Miura”, a thing that seems as if one could build barricades with several of them but could not do otherwise. And it’s nothing less than the reinvention of the bar stool, a piece of furniture that you can keep your balance on even after the third drink.

Marcel Breuer had no suspicion

But that would not have been enough for Grcic – especially since the place, a beautiful villa from the beginning of the 20th century, with its solidity, its bourgeois generosity would transform even the most provocative design into a tastefully selected piece of furniture. Grcic therefore exposes his design to the attacks of the non-design, he explores what is left when beautiful or at least reflected form must assert itself against formlessness. His working hypothesis reads like this: that wrongful appropriation is the very purpose of even the best designer pieces. Marcel Breuer had no idea about the laptops that are on his desk today. Vico Magistretti did not see it coming that his lamps would shine next to LED screens. And since Grcic cannot get his objects from the future, he confronts his designs with objects whose purpose and significance are not recognizable.

A poisonous green-yellow snake comes out of the armrest of the beautiful ocher-yellow armchair “Sam Son” – as if you were to pump the remnants of bad taste out from behind the smart surface. The “Miura” stool is chained to an iron bar with a standard padlock – as if the stool and not the drinker should now be sober. An office chair has been tied up, spikes grow out of a bench, and a windshield hangs from the ceiling in front of a lounge chair.

A chaise longue that takes selfies


A chaise longue that takes selfies
:


Photo: Florian Boehm

Grcic seems to be driven by a deep-seated lack of seriousness, a pleasure in making fun of the sacred seriousness of the art and design industry – it’s hard not to be loud in front of a tabletop that Grcic has decorated with the most colorful and cheap stickers to break out in laughter. One can, of course, ward off this joke as a teenager, late dadaist, silly. And notice the whole exhibition as an artistically very serious installation about objects, shapes, colors and the space that surrounds it all.

So is it – but when two chairs hang backwards from the ceiling, one thinks that it might just be a punishment for all the people who have been sitting uncomfortably in these chairs for too long. And the fact that Grcic is apparently driven throughout the exhibition by the desire to torment his objects, not only shows that he has understood the basic relationship between people and design – he also gives the visitor insight into the fact that between the two people and furniture is a fundamental conflict. Beauty is not a solution. And art only a consolation.

Konstantin Grcic: “New Normals”. Haus am Waldsee, until 8 May.

Leave a Comment