Under the provocative title “Destroy design”, the Lausanne Museum of design and contemporary applied arts (mudac) presents an exhibition that is sharp, irreverent and playful. The works of internationally renowned artists are confronted with those of leading designers in a display that confounds the boundaries between art and design. The odd collection of objects, installations, photographs and sculptures teases, puzzles, amuses and educates.
Didier Fiuza Faustino, France, Love me tender, 2000-2001, FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais © Didier Fiuza Faustino / Bureau des Mésarchitectures
“Destroy Design” could equally be considered the height of bad taste. Design objects, some of iconic stature, have been ripped, punctured, bent, hacked, twisted or burned. Others have been stripped of their function or identity, as if trying to make us believe that they can become something else.
At first the show may appear garish and absurd, until suddenly the underlying irony becomes apparent and it all starts to make sense.
“We haven’t used ‘destroy’ in a negative sense,” says Hilde Teerlinck, director of the Regional contemporary art collection Dunkirk in France (FRAC) that has lent to Mudac most of the pieces on display. After Lausanne, the exhibition will travel to Denmark and Belgium.
“What we are saying is that to destroy means that you can then make something new,” she emphasizes, adding that most artists already “construct starting from clear references to the past; they build something new while transforming historical models”.
It adds zest and humour to the show. Some shapes are hi-jacked from their initial function (see Didier Fiuza Faustino’s impossible chair pictured above and below that will puncture the floor with the weight of a person), some functions are abducted from their shapes (see Tejo Remy’s jumble of drawers: it actually works as a chest of drawers).
The show makes a clear reference to the Dadaist and Surrealist movements of the beginning of the twentieth century, in particular to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, everyday objects that the French artist transposed to a different environment and called them art.
In fact, many objects acquire a poetic charge when extracted from their original function and setting. A red table carved with fine furrows suggests the intense activity of insects.
A messy tangle of wires cascades down from a ceiling, ends in branches of bulbs splayed on the floor (not pictured).
Eighty chairs in eight sparkling colours have been hand-carved to resemble the famous ‘ant chair’ from the early fifties by Arne Jacobsen. The removed material and sawdust lie on the chairs and on the floor as if to suggest that the furniture is neither here nor there.
“We like to work at the frontier between design and art,” says Chantal Prod’Hom, who before becoming director of Mudac ten years ago, headed the short-lived but influential Asher Edelman Contemporary Art Foundation in Pully, before working at the world-famous Fabrica, the Benetton-sponsored art centre in Treviso, Italy.
“An environment like ours, which resembles a house, is particularly well suited to this kind of exhibition,” Chantal Prod’Hom says. The Mudac is housed in a building made up of four medieval dwellings that have been joined together, presenting a string of rooms of various sizes.
Short films in each room deliver the keys to the 31 works on display. “We felt that this was important because there really is a lot of information that we want to share,” Prod’Hom explains. She has been assisted by Claire Favre Maxwell, Susanne Hilpert Stuber and Cécile Togni in creating the harmonious and inviting arrangement of the exhibition.
“I am really very pleased with the result,” says Hilde Teerlinck. “The Mudac’s display translates the tension and expectation that I was looking for when I chose the name ‘Destroy’.”