MAK Shows Material Experiments with Formless Furniture

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MAK Shows Material Experiments with Formless Furniture
Sofa LOGO, Unique piece, made 1994. Base made of used plastic packagings, dyed black. Upper side made of used shopping bags and packagings showing brand logos. Produced by Br +Knell MAK/Georg Mayer.

VIENNA.- In the exhibition entitled “FORMLESS FURNITURE”, the MAK for the first time takes stock of the different aspects and manifestations of formlessness in furniture design. Since the 1960s, artists and designers have experimented with various materials so as to create alternatives to existing furniture designs and in doing so developed formless seating objects. Featuring pieces by Gunnar Aargaard Andersen and Gaetano Pesce, Tejo Remy, Ron Arad and Br+Knell up to Tom Dixon, Jerszey Seymour, Robert Stadler, Lothar Windels
and the Campana brothers, the MAK exhibition offers a survey of experimental
design in the past forty years.

Around the mid-1960s, artists such as Robert Morris, Joseph Beuys, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Csar Baldaccini, or Lynda Benglis discovered formlessness as a possible starting point for artistic material experiments; using voluminous anti-forms of crude and unshaped materials such as fat, earth, and rags or expansion of synthetic materials, these artists were in opposition to predominant art attitudes.

The new understanding of material also had considerable influence on the furniture designs by contemporary designers – for example, on Gunnar Aargaard Andersen’s experimental polyurethane “Armchair”, on Roger Dean’s fomed-up “Sea Urchin” seat, or on the famous “Sacco” by Piero Gatti, Cesare Paolini, and Franco Teodoro. In the 1970s, one central figure in the area of formless objects between art and design was Gaetano Pesce, in whose furniture form and function can sometimes only be guessed.

Formless furniture was taken as a deliberate violation of so-called Good Taste or as an act of resistance against usual conventions in interior design and an articulation of the sphere of living informed by functional aspects only. Above all, however, they can be read as the conscious dismissal of the so-called Good Form as had long been dominant in postwar design. In their virtually proliferating and chaotic structure, these non-forms of felt panels, heaps of rags, wire mesh, and foam piles frequently went even far beyond florid Baroque ornamentation, signalizing a rigorous breach with the geometrical vocabulary of classical and modernist design.

The exhibition “FORMLESS FURNITURE” offers a broad range of objects from the colorful euphoric plastic age to furniture made of deliberately simple and poor materials and on to objects with the perfect surface finish of the digital age. Thematically, the show relates to the discussion of the changing notions of formlessness throughout the 20th century: from Georges Bataille’s “informe” to Robert Morris’ “Anti-Form” and the latest experimental variations of the formless in texts by Greg Lynn or Jerszy Seymour.

The exhibition focuses on seating furniture which, being particularly bodyrelated,
was preferably used by designers as their central field of experimentation. The MAK show features “formless furniture” by the following designers: from Gunnar Aargaard Andersen and Gaetano Pesce to Ron Arad, Tejo Remy, or Br+Knell, and on to most recent design approaches taken by Tom Dixon, Jerszey Seymour and to the computer-generated “Blobjects” by Greg Lynn or Karim Rashid. About half of the 18 exhibits come from the MAK’s own collection.

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