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"intimate" Tag


Back to intimacy


Monday, February 19, 2018

When visiting a museum, it is often hard for me to decide what to find more intriguing: The exhibited artworks or the visitors walking carefully among them, observing them. Hardly ever do they physically touch, or if it happens, then in shyly hidden ways. Especially when it comes to everyday design objects, there seems to be a big gap in between the visitors and the exhibited pieces, which are locked away from their original function: to be touched and used. During my last visit at the Stedelijk Museum there was for instance a person standing for quite a long while infront of a vitrine where, in between other objects, Kaj Francks „Kilta Services“ was being exhibited.

Franck was one of the designers who developed the „Iittala philosophy“: creating design that is both beautiful and functional, and lasts a lifetime. „Does not ‘beautiful’ ultimately mean necessary, functional, justified, right?“ (Kaj Franck, 1978)

In the center: service „Kilta“, glazed ceramics, production in 1953 – 1975, designed by Kaj Franck

In the center: service „Kilta“, glazed ceramics, production in 1953 – 1975, designed by Kaj Franck

The person looked at the plates and cups inside, slightly leaning against the glass that was separating him from the objects. Why was he so attentively watching them? The longer I observed the visitor observing the tableware and the distant space between them, the more I started to think the glass vitrine away and imagined him having a real physical experience with one of the cups instead: the two being naturally rejoined, exchanging what is deep inside.

‘He holds the cup that is filled with tea, leads it towards his mouth and drinks from it. The content flows in one direction which is his interior. Luxoriously he sucks the liquid inside and the cup seems to be very willing to feed him.

“The cup is the drone of the ceramics world, perhaps the hardest working of vessels and the least appreciated. In the grandest of tea or coffee services, the cup is usually the most underdesigned object, playing the role of subservient pawn to the teapot’s queen.“ (Garth Clark, „The Book of Cups, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990, p. 17)

He drinks everything of it until it is empty. But it still contains the warmth of the hot drink, as he inserts his finger he can feel it. For a short moment they contain the same warmth, the cup and him: he contains the warm tea and the cup the rest of warmth of the tea.

„Close space! Close the kangaroo’s pouch! It’s warm in there.“ (Le Temps de la poésie, G.L.M. July 1948, p.32)

cup, Service "Kilta", designed by Kaj Franck

Service “Kilta”, designed by Kaj Franck

He shouts into the cup and holds it close to his ear: he hears a distant echo. The echo vibrates a few times and is gone. He holds it close to his breast and feels that it is vibrating synchronously to his heartbeat.

„When we evaluate everyday objects, we should place more emphasis than we usually do on ergonomic quality and tactile sensibility“ (Kaj Franck, 1978)

He fills it with tea, looks at it and it is roundly opened as if it was calling him. He lifts it towards his mouth and his lips connect to the cup. They softly touch and his tongue reaches the wet content. Then the kiss becomes wild.

„Many a slip twixt cup and lip“ (Garth Clark, „The Book of Cups“, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990)

service „Kilta“, designed by Kaj Franck

Service „Kilta“, designed by Kaj Franck

After finishing he cleans the cup. The cup is very deep, so it is hard for him to reach the ground. He cleans and dries it with care and attention, outside and inside. That makes the cup shine and renews its promissing interior.

„A house that shines from the care it receives appears to have been rebuilt from the inside.“ (Gaston Bachelard, „The Poetics of Space“, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994, p.68)

Afterward him and the cup are cold and empty. He looks around and decides to continue drinking from it: what comes out is sweet. He feels a strange feeling that is increasing and expanding inside of him. It tickles him in an unknown place and he bursts into tears.

„Moreover the cup does not have any immediate sense of drama (…). But that does not mean the drama is absent, rather that we need to examine the cup a little more closely and consciously to discover its sense of domestic theater“ (The Book of Cups, Abbeville Publishing Group, New York, 1990 p. 19)

     "Venus von Willendorf", 1963, by Otto Piene, oil and soot on canvas

“Venus von Willendorf”, 1963, by Otto Piene, oil and soot on canvas

His tears keep on falling inside the cup. It takes more or less three seconds for the first teardrop to reach the ground, the noise sounds far. When the cup is filled with tears he is still crying. He looks inside and sees his face inbetween reflections of light.

„My cup runneth over“ („The Bible“, Psalm 23:, Ezekiel 34:11-24; John 10:1-21)

Suddenly he grabs the cup and throws it against the wall…’

service „Kilta"

service „Kilta”

„A kind of cosmic anguish precedes the storm. Then the wind starts to howl at the top of its lungs. Soon the entire menagerie of the hurricane lifts its voice.“ (Gaston Bachelard, „The Poetics of Space“, Beacon Press, Boston, 1994, p. 44)

As I awake from my daydream, the visitor of the Stedelijk Museum is gone, leaving no trace of evidence for what in different circumstances might have happened between him and Kaj Francks „Kilta Services“.

 

Don’t judge a book by its cover


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Esther de Vries is a graphic designer specialized in book design. Among many projects, she made two books on her father, the sculptor Auke de Vries. The two books, dealing with the same artist, are yet very different, the first one, Auke de Vries Photo Archives, being much more intimate than the second one, Auke de Vries: Sculptures, drawing and work in public space, which is more meant as an chronological overview on the evolution of the artistic career  of Auke de Vries. But what is surprising is that both books are very different from the first impression the reader can get just by watching the cover.

 

 

Indeed, at first sight and because of its very strong cover and size, the biggest book seems to be one of those very classical and sometimes deadly boring art books that present an exhaustive view of the work of an artist. But going into the design and the content of the volume you can experience it as an actual novel object. A lot of different materials are used in the book, making it exciting to go through, and a great importance is accorded to the process, thus gathering a collection of sketches, photographs and forms that helped or influenced the artist with his sculptures, and even pictures of the artist working in his studio. On all those pictures the text is set in an unquestionable playful way, sometimes even covering the images.

 

 

 

An other particularity that makes the book playful and thrilling is the use of very thin pages presenting a compilation of different forms, cut from a photograph of a work of the artist and magnified. Those pages refers to the collection of forms that the artist developed and used constantly in his work. Esther was keen to scatter that through the pages as, what she calls, an alphabet.

 

 

 

As for Photo Archives, the fabric and very simple cover makes it look at first glance as a secondary book, very small and discreet, soft, not meant to go through the years as the other one. But once more the design and content makes it very special, in a precious and sprightly way. While the other book is meant to present mainly the evolution of the artist’s works, this photography book shows through the collection of pictures the process that took place even before the artworks, as a wandering in the thoughts of the artist.

 

 

Here the relation to the reader is completely unusual, as there is no chronological order or reading direction. The reader, who is more a viewer since

there is no text, can open the book in the middle, at the end, or open the same page again and again, led to wander in the same way that the artist was wandering when he took those pictures.

 

archive_04

 

This is also a quite seducing book, designed between rule and coincidence with a set of colors and places for the pictures that are sometimes cut in two by the Japanese binding, leading the reader to focus on a particular shape that recalls Auke de Vries’ work. I noticed that the two books are very different from the first feeling you can get from them.

 

Yet, maybe Esther’s work, or at least these two books, deals a lot with feeling. That is to say the very strong feeling that the reader gets or is given in both cases of the close connection between the work of the artist and the design of the books. They pay homage to this work. It might has to do with the fact that both books where initiated by Esther herself, and not commisioned, hence the liberties in the design. This is also caused by the very long process that the designer went through while making those books, meticulously choosing each picture and composition, trying all the colors with each image again and again, changing direction until being fully satisfied, regardless of time.

 

All that makes both works very touching and the enthusiasm of the designer becomes very apparent, discovering a treasure made of all those pictures and willing to share it, making it as complete as possible to preserve the emotion aroused by the pictures themselves.

Rietveld library catalog no : Vrie 5 (

Rijksmuseum library catalog no : 832 E 13 (


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