Design: At Bless, the old is not thrown out, but changed

design Designduoen Bless

Where the old is not thrown away, but gets a new look

Bless Apartment in Berliner Kunst-Werke - with a sloping floor and photo wall showing a previous installation in the Neutra-Haus in Los Angeles Bless Apartment in Berliner Kunst-Werke - with a sloping floor and photo wall showing a previous installation in the Neutra-Haus in Los Angeles

Bless Apartment in Berliner Kunst-Werke – with a sloping floor and photo wall showing a previous installation in the Neutra-Haus in Los Angeles

Source: Frank Sperling

Thick padded hammock or chair cover made of shaggy fur. For 25 years, Bless designers have been designing innovative, slightly slanted objects. Because they occupy a very unique position, an exhibition becomes dedicated to them again.

ZIn recent years, modern designs have often been recognizable on smooth surfaces and a minimalist design language. You will not find any of it on Bless. The two designers who operate under this name became known in the late 1990s when fashion designer Martin Margiela included their fur wigs in his collection. They design items that are mundane and at the same time quite quirky.

A thick padded hammock, for example, and chair covers made of shaggy fur. Or curtains that show a photorealistic rendering of the view that is behind the window pane. “We would like to adjust a little on the parameters of the known,” says Desiree Heiss, who has founded the interdisciplinary study together with Ines Kaag. First of all, the two design objects that they would like to have themselves. If they infuse something subtle into the process, it’s a welcome side effect.

Milan design week

BOSA - Photo Ginga Contents Ph Juliano Araujo Mariano Beck 4.jpg

Kaag and Heiss are actually going out of fashion, but they never fit into the system there. Instead of using professional models, they showed their designs to people they knew, and instead of producing seasonal collections, they produced archival series. She quickly got bored of just dealing with clothes. “There was a moment in fashion where you could suddenly do anything,” Heiss says. “Inserting a single shoulder pad somewhere was considered modern. It seemed random.” You prefer to make something of everything yourself: furniture, clothes and unusual items from LED earrings to car covers.

Because they have occupied a rather unique position for the past 25 years, Kunst-Werke Berlin is currently devoting an extensive exhibition to them. For one year, the house offers space for installations and experiments with “A Year With Bless”. The first thing Heiss and Kaag settled for was the apartment where the institution houses artists. Instead of a straight floor, there is now a sloping surface in one corner where visitors can work or do sports exercises. Walls and wood cabinets are covered in wallpaper showing a previous installation in the Neutra home in Los Angeles, creating an interesting 3D effect.

Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss on their Bless object

Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss on their Bless object “N ° 71 Brownhair Pricecharms”, a rug

Source: N ° 71 Brownhair Pricecharms Blanket © BLESS 2021

Otherwise, there is a lot to see that is obscured: Armchairs disappear under moss green fabrics from the Danish company, unsightly cables in pearl strings. Banal items like cleaning bottles and vacuum cleaners are covered in jeans. The two have often used this term for outfitting, for example for Artek in 2017. For the collection “Lobby Conquerors”, they covered the armchairs of the Finnish design company from the middle of the century with fur or framed them in marble and concrete. An approach that seems contemporary in light of the overproduction and forging culture. “We do not see much point in designing a new chair,” says Ines Kaag. “There is one on the market for every taste.” At Bless, old things are not thrown out, but dressed in new clothes.

Heiss and Kaag got together in 1997, it all started with the wig. After studying fashion, the two placed an ad in the British magazine “iD”, in which they advertised the self-sewn part: half fur hat, half mullet. “We were curious who would make contact,” Heiss says. There were virtually no calls, but those that came came from the right place. Martin Margiela’s press office first made contact because Margiela wanted the wigs, made from old fur coats, for her show. Only because there was a contract to sign it did the duo give themselves an official name. The other caller was Sarah Andelman, who later opened the Paris concept store Colette. The fur hairstyle went into series production. Musician Björk carried them on stage, exhibition organizer Klaus Biesenbach went skiing.

Perfect for skiing

Pop star Billie Eilish in a down coat from Northface and Gucci

Since then, Bless has exhibited his work in countless exhibitions, for example at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein or at the Architecture Biennale in Chicago. The drafts appear meticulously numbered and documented, they are now at number 72. “As situation designers, we feel responsible for intervening almost invisibly,” says Kaag. They are primarily interested in researching the conditions under which people want to live and work. How to reconcile mental and physical demands, jobs and leisure. In short: the famous balance between work and private life.

Bless also suggests a few solutions in Kunst-Werke, ranging from a padded stepper to a Mercedes that has been converted into a sauna. The gap between pragmatism and speculation is wide, the progress always comes from one’s own everyday life. “We’d rather do physically demanding work,” Heiss says. “And less on the computer.” Since Heiss lives in Paris, while Kaag is mainly in Berlin, video calls are likely to be unavoidable in the future.

“A Year With Bless”, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin. Until December 22nd

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