Design duo Studio Job brings beauty to the mundane at this year's Milan Furniture Fair, as art infiltrates design.
Studio Job redefines design. Instilling everyday objects with a fine-art savoir faire and fairytale-like fables, nothing is what it seems...
Bisazza's grand installation at this year's Milan Furniture Fair was a wonderland fantasy, as a giant figure, courtesy of Spanish designer Hayon, struck a striking pose, while next door, Studio Job, a.k.a. Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel, served up a beautiful mise-en-scène of prodigiously proportioned serving silverware.
The Belgian/Dutch couple, both graduates of the Design Academy Eindhoven, exemplifies the current cross-fertilization taking place in art and design, creating autonomous works that are hard to categorize. Even under interrogation, they decline to define their roles as either artists or designers, as they teeter precariously on the rapidly dissipating line between the two. Offering an alternative take on traditional design concepts such as functionality and commercial success, Studio Job creates works of wonder, each with a tale to tell.
In less than a decade, Studio Job has carved out an impressive niche for itself, creating future antiques for the likes of Viktor & Rolf, Domestic and Royal Tichelaar Maddum. The couple made their Milan debut in 2000 with Room With A View, a collection of paper furniture and bronze castings and a precursor to current themes, followed by Swarovski's Charm chandelier in 2003 and the highly acclaimed Zoom and Rock Furniture collections for Gallery Dilmos in 2004. This year they were omnipresent, showing unique pieces for New York's Moss Gallery, Thomas Eyck and existing works at Moooi.
You created a huge installation for Bisazza at this year's Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. What was idea behind it?
Nynke: We wanted to make a surrealistic landscape, bourgeois pieces with a pixilated skin. By blowing up pieces of a silverware service and a cake platter, the platter becomes a table and a tea tray becomes a mirror. Also, when you scale down the pieces, the pixilation of the mosaic disappears and it looks just like normal silverware.
Job: The idea is to make us small and humble. I think it's good to stay humble.
You have a culinary theme running throughout your work here; what inspired it?
Job: We started a story in 2000 and wanted to continue that story. If you compare our work each year, it is totally different—but in the end, it's one long story. That's really important for us because we don't want to lose our identity, not jumping from one thing to another.
Nynke: We see our pieces as an inventory of the different castes in society—the rich, the poor, the archetypes of all the classes.
Job: We really feel that archetypes are very close to happiness. With the Moss installation, you see that clearly. When I was young, I would grab the pots and pans in my mother's kitchen and start making towers—I was bored. Now I remember that time as a really important one in my life, because that was the time when I was free, so in a way, the archetype is close to freedom. You have the archetype at all levels; the silver teapot is also an archetype, and as such it is worth accentuating, like in the movie. In design, it is worthwhile to exaggerate everyday life.
You speak about remaining humble, but you are currently the name on everyone's lips. How do you feel about outside reactions?
Job: Five years ago, everyone was telling us that we made bad design and bad art, and now, with this installation, we have tried to introduce the concept of making sculptures in design, to see how that would work.
Nynke: Also to put everyday objects on a pedestal to exaggerate the feeling.
Job: To make them more important.
Five years ago you were already producing objects that were more in the realm of art, which, as you mentioned, were highly criticized. Now that design is moving into the realm of art and designers are following your lead, how do you feel about this?
Job: I think that it's an honor and I hope that at least some people will think "Oh yeah, I remember Studio Job did a little investigation in this area." It's also good for the field of design. I think it's important that the world of design becomes as wide as possible. Design can be so expressive, it doesn't have to be art—that's really important.
What have you learned from your success?
Nynke: That you should go on and on. That's the most important thing. We've been here for 10 years in a row and never skipped one edition, so I think it's important.
Job: It's also important to stay modest.
How do you measure the success of a piece?
Nynke: We were just discussing the fact that next year we want to make a collection where all pieces are equal, because we always have favorite pieces.
What is currently in the pipeline?
Job: We have a show at the Moss Gallery in New York next month. After that, we have our first solo exhibition in a museum in Belgium. The funny thing is that we are Belgian designers, but nobody knows us in Belgium and we are actually moving to Berlin, so the show is called Hello & Goodbye. We are then heading to Japan for a new show in Tokyo. In the meantime, we are doing the façades for five living and commercial buildings in Amsterdam, and we've just finished a building in Rotterdam which will house the broadcasting company TV Rijnmond.
Nynke: We're also working on a very big collection for Robert Baron.
Job: It's a really important collection of five bronze pieces. These are like monuments for the bourgeoisie.
Nynke: It's based on the office of a rich industrialist.
Nynke and Job's definition of luxury
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
A candle to make light.
If it were a place, where would it be?
If it were a person, who would it be?
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
A moment together.