In the Land of Gods and Monsters: Lynch and Ruscha's Los Angeles

“What a fine thing it would be, Harvey thought, to build a place like this. To drive its foundations deep into the earth; to lay its floors and hoist its walls; to say: Where there was nothing, I raised a house. That would be a very fine thing.” - Clive Barker, "The Thief of Always"





"Although one or two pictures suggest some recognition of the criteria of art-photography, or even architectural photography, the majority seem to take pleasure in rigorous display of generic lapses: improper relation of lenses to subject distances, insensitivity to time of day and quality of light, excessively functional cropping, with abrupt excisions of peripheral objects, lack of attention to the specific character of the moment bing depicted—all in all a hilarious performance, an almost sinister mimicry of the way “people” make images of the dwellings with which they are involved. Ruscha’s impersonation of such an Everyperson obviously draws attention to the alienated relationships people have with their built environment." [2]

"In 1965 Edward Ruscha published Some Los Angeles Apartments, the third in his ongoing series of photographic books, and completed a group of ten related drawings that depict variations on the ubiquitous Southern California apartment building.

Ruscha’s apartment book chronicles the artist’s fascination with Los Angeles and its unique characteristics. Having moved there from Oklahoma in 1956, Ruscha was immediately excited by his new environment and stimulated by its fast and mobile landscape. The car, in fact, is central to the development of Ruscha’s work. His love of driving around Los Angeles, exploring the city and absorbing its character, coupled with frequent trips along Route 66 to visit Oklahoma, gave him a visual perspective defined by the windshield, driver’s window, and curbside. He found gasoline stations, apartments, vacant lots, and palm trees during drives around Los Angeles and photographed them from where he stood beside his parked car." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "1029 S. Union," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"Although it was not Ruscha’s intent, Some Los Angeles Apartments also documents an aberrant chapter in a fifty-year history of distinguished architectural achievement in Southern California. A combination of factors contributed to the growth of a distinct and adventurous architecture during the first half of the twentieth century. The open, horizontal space and temperate climate promoted outdoor living and the proliferation of single-family houses and apartments with patios and gardens. Los Angeles also developed—by plan and circumstance—as a decentralized city with many commercial centers joined by an efficient and complex system of freeways that established the private car as the primary means of transportation. The mobility afforded by the automobile contributed greatly to the overall dispersal of low-density residential buildings, usually only one or two stories high. In addition, by the 1930s, a strong economy coupled with an atmosphere of optimism and experimentation encouraged a talented group of young architects to design an imaginative California Modern style of house and apartment." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "6565 Fountain Ave.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"The earliest suggestion of a modern architecture appears in the work of Irving Gill. His Horatio West Court (1919) displays a modernized version of the then dominant Mission Revival style. During the teens and twenties, this common form of residential architecture—derived from the Spanish missions built in California in the eighteenth century—was typically wood framed, sheathed with white stucco, and oriented around a garden space. The solid massing and plain surfaces of Mission Revival architecture related to current abstract architecture being done by Adolf Loos and Walter Gropius in Austria and Germany. Gill further pared away detail, emphasizing broad white surfaces with deep recesses, arches, and horizontal bands of windows meeting at the corner, offering abundant light, ventilation, and ocean views. Gill’s synthesis of the Mission style, with its stress on simplicity, geometry, light, and shade, was well suited to the California Climate.

The rapid growth of the Los Angeles population and residential and public development through the 1930s led to the proliferation of bungalows, ranch houses, and tract housing, all clad in various period styles—Regency, Colonial, Tudor, Spanish, and Streamline Moderne. However, the most distinguished contribution was made by a few architects, most notably R.M. Schindler and Richard Neutra, who arrived in LA in the 1920s. Both were born and trained in Vienna, had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, and were deeply committed to the International Style. Their aesthetic, which demanded that materials, details, and form symbolically and functionally relate to a rational machine precisionism, was easily adaptable to the requirements of the Southern California environment. Neutra’s Landfair Apartments and Strathmore Apartments (both 1938) are pure International Style. Simple, direct, and rational, they are one- and two-story  buildings with a small number of apartments, suggesting single-family residences. Their clean planes of white stucco, generous bands of horizontal windows, and flat roofs with gardens were compatible with a simplified, modern, outdoor-oriented life-style. Schindler’s structures reveal more complex compositions, emphasizing spatial and volumetric forms that are both functional and aesthetic. On the façade of Schindler’s Mackey Duplex Apartments (1939), the internal vertical and horizontal spaces project to external volumes that are integral to the composition rather than merely decorative. Schindler’s De Stijl forms exerted a strong influence on the development of Los Angeles architecture, offering innovation and adaptability in apartment design." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "2014 S. Beverly Glen Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

Edward Ruscha, "15120 Victory Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"Other variations on International Style apartments using a court or garden plan were provided by Gregory Ain and J.R. Davidson, two architects influenced by Neutra and Schindler. Ain’s Dunsmuir Flats Apartments (1937) is a severely geometricized International Style building staggered back on a deep lot. A long, narrow outside entrance on one side allows garden areas on the opposite side of the building. Each apartment is two stories, with the ground floor opening onto a private patio, and all rooms are illuminated on three sides by narrow strip windows. The front elevation is dominated by a row of enclosed garages, completing a plan that is consistent in layout, structure, and materials with convenience, privacy, outdoors, an the automobile. Davidson’s Gretna Green Apartments (1940) displays the same concern with patio gardens, well-lit living spaces, and convenient car accommodations in a simple, well-organized, and substantial white stucco structure. Like Neutra and Schindler, Davidson’s training in a European Modern aesthetic is comfortably adapted to the new California Modern style. A variation on apartment structures is seen in William Foster’s Shangri-La Apartments and Hotel (1941)—a massive Streamline Moderne structure displaying curved corners, decorative glass bricks, and fanciful lettering on the entrance canopy. The desirable corner location, affording sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, encouraged a high-rise building, with balconies on the upper floors, that offered both private apartments and hotel rooms.

The increasing population density and continuing growth of commercial centers in West Los Angeles and along the Wilshire Boulevard corridor in the 1950s generated more high-rise apartments, but these were on the model of New York residential buildings. Victor Gruen’s Wilshire Terrace Apartments (1959) is a massive rectangular box with pattern and texture dominating all four sides. The interior circulation, double-loaded corridors, necessity for elevators, and lack of access to outdoor areas marks a distinct departure from the California Modern Architecture of the previous two decades, which emphasized the advantages of the Los Angeles environment." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "1018 S. Atlantic Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"By the time Ruscha photographed contemporary apartments in 1965, the distinctions between architectural styles and life-styles and been blurred and even disregarded. The spread of freeways crisscrossing the Los Angeles basin and the subsequent development of properties at interchanges and off-ramps, along with a population density too high to allow spacious single-family residences and garden apartments, spawned the appearance of the Los Angeles ‘dingbat’ apartment. Dingbat—a word of unknown origin traditionally used to describe a typographical symbol or ornament that calls attention to an opening sentence or break between paragraphs—is an appropriate word to describe architecture that displays superficial ornamentation and signage to call attention to itself in order to distinguish it from a similarly plain apartment building next door. Dingbats, which predominate in Some Los Angeles Apartments, are typically two-story walk-up structures with a side-loaded exterior corridor and exterior circulation. Usually a boxy rectangle of wood construction with stuccoed exterior walls, these 1960s apartments display an eccentric, embellished, cheap, and often ridiculous version of the pure Modern style exemplified by Neutra and Schindler. Designed to be cost-effective, they were built to fill the entire lot from the sidewalk property line to the back, with parking efficiently tucked under the living areas in carports. They retain none of the privacy, cross lighting and ventilation, flowering gardens, or architectural originality that they hope to announce by their decorated facades. However, they were of great interest, not necessarily to the people who lived in them, but to Ruscha, precisely because they expressed the freedom, diversity, newness, and irony of the visual experience of Los Angeles." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "2206 Echo Park Ave.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965



“The older the house, the more have likely died inside. This house is old.” - Brooks Sterritt, "A Face is Made of Fourteen Bones"

“Man, the ‘interior designer,’ is . . . an active engineer of atmosphere . . . Everything has to intercommunicate, everything has to be functional—no more secrets, no more mysteries, everything is organized, therefore everything is clear . . . modern man, the cybernetician, [is] a mental hypochondriac, as someone obsessed with the perfect circulation of messages.” - Jean Baudrillard, "The System of Objects"



"In 1997, while promoting his new project, Lost Highway, Lynch granted his first interview to a design journal, the Swiss publication form. Question: ‘Do you ever dream of furniture?’ Answer: ‘I day-dream of furniture, yes.’ The stuff of fantasy, furniture is also a long-standing hobby for Lynch and became a minor business venture for him in the 1990s, after the critical and commercial failure of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and during a period when Lynch struggled to get another film off the ground. In the interview, Lynch explains that he had been making furniture ever since art school and sold his first piece at Skank World, a small Beverly Hills shop specializing in mid-century design. In April 1997 several of Lynch’s pieces, including the Club Tables featured in the photograph of the interior of the Beverly Johnson House, were displayed at Milan’s Salone del Mobile, one of the world’s more prestigious furniture exhibitions. Lynch sold the line—including the Steel Block Table, the Floating Beam Tale, and the Espresso Table—exclusively through the Swiss design company Casanostra, with the small constructions of wood an steel priced between fifteen hundred and two thousand dollars. On Casanostra’s website the last piece is sold with the tag, 'Coffee in an asymmetrical world.'" [3]

"Similarly, the October Films press kit for the picture promoted it as the work of a visionary auteur who conceives of film as an inherently intermedial endeavor, combining music and art direction, painting and photography in a symphony of design:

The design within the house also corresponds to Lynch’s overall vision. ‘I always like to have the people stand out, so the furnishings have got to be as minimal as possible so you can see the people.’ Lynch adds, ‘There were many things that had to be built for the story to work,’ and since Lynch has lately expanded his activities to include the design of furniture, he actually built some pieces for this set himself, most notably the case that contains the Madison’s ominous VCR.

Lost Highway’s furniture, it seems, is transparent, opening onto views of Lynch’s eccentric genius. The romantic idea of the auteur, developed most famously in the 1950s in the pages of the French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma, was bound to a related notion of the expressive mise-en-scène, of a controlled cinematic décor bearing the traces of a presiding aesthetic personality. Style, for the discerning “Hitchcocko-Hawksiens” at Cahiers, would have a soul, humanizing the industrial products of Hollywood’s dream factory. And it is hard not to think of Lynch’s furniture as a kind of artistic cameo, the equivalent in the realm of objects of the cheeky appearances of his beloved Hitchcock, always popping up in his own films and turning them into ever more reflexive and ironic gizmos in the process. What’s more, the furniture—and the domestic drama of Fred (Bill Pullman) and Renee (Patricia Arquette) that occupies roughly the first half of the film’s disjointed narrative—is staged in an über-modern home that is Lynch’s real property, one of three houses (including Lloyd Wright Jr.’s Beverly Johnson House) owned by the director in the same canyon outside of Hollywood. The feature article on Lost Highway in Rolling Stone, explains how Lynch remodeled the house inside and out for the film, adding the tiny, narrow slot windows to the exterior and building a ‘tunnellike hallway’ on the inside, into which Fred Madison will repeatedly be made to disappear." [3]

"The press kit also insists on the centrality of the home’s design to unlocking the film’s secrets or producing more of them:

The house inhabited by Fred and Renee is similarly integral to the film’s scheme, combining stylistic elements of yesterday, today and tomorrow, just as the narrative does. In fact, the house’s peculiar design could almost serve as a metaphor for the entire film: when seen from the front, there are a few small windows, providing limited opportunities to see inside. But when it is approached from other angles, one realizes that there are many ways to observe the interior.

The Madison’s home, we are assured, is like the broader style of the film’s décor, both ‘blazingly modern and absolutely retro in look and feel.’ Dropping references to expressionism, the surrealism of André Breton, psychoanalysis, and film noir, Lost Highway’s marketing announces David Lynch’s return to form through his modernity, and his modernity through an unlikely equation between the modern, minimalist house and modernist narrative complexity. Less is more." [3]

"Aesthetic modernism is part of the film’s status as stylistic pastiche, but also part of its real narrative aspirations and claims to aesthetic legitimacy and power. Lost Highway poaches the design lessons of high modernist architecture—utopian rationalism and functionalism, chiefly—and ironizes them in the service of modernist narrative in the mode of art cinema, blurring art and pornography, visionary idealism and mass-market materialism. In Lost Highway, transparency and rationalism fail in precisely the location where so many postwar architects imagined the future of the modernist impulse—the happy, newly pleasurable open-plan design of the mid-century domestic interior, whose dream of more permeable boundries between inside and outside becomes another nightmare. The film’s relentlessly pornographic imagination is part of its own meditation on auteur self-fashioning as furniture. This befits an artist who, on the heels of two commercial flops, has become well acquainted with the vagaries of mass taste and finds himself embroiled in another campaign to sell himself. In the process, the auteur’s romantic soul is hollowed out, hardening into a merely functional thing. The Lynchian signature becomes a design icon, a fetishized commodity, an ironic advertisement for its own hidden mysteries whose views are forever deferred: furniture porn." [3]

"In Lost Highway these ironic objects—furniture, bodies, and the souls of authors—are set loose in a strikingly dehumanized and unsentimental film. Instead, Lynch positions his furniture in a dark, highly reflexive meditation on the enigma of personality itself—on the very idea of human interiority or other, obscene secrets on the insides of things. The Madison’s modern home allows Lynch to pose the question of the interior in several ways: through the troubled status of bourgeois domesticity and privacy, here again contaminated y theatricality; through the etiology of Fred’s psychological distress, which Lynch again gives harrowing architectural form and here drives the narrative fragmentation; and through the enigma of Renee/Alice, whose mysterious sexuality is asked to speak its truth, in the fashion of pornography." [3]

"The Madison’s living room, with its wooden auteurist prosthesis, draws on the romantic soul of wood—its integrity, warmth, and temporal stability—to protect against the violation of domestic intimacy by technology and psychic malaise. The VCR case’s compensory quality is immediately noticeable because of its functionality and superfluity. There is already a capacious horizontal niche for the VCR carved into the half wall of light wood, which makes the additional wooden sleeve around the VCR an unnecessary design flourish. The case’s evident lack of functionality is all the more flagrant within a semitransparent partition designed, in mid-century fashion, for multifunctionality: it is at once media console, storage space, and room divider, separating the living room from the stairway behind it. But the console offers scant consolation, because its design elements are echoes or repetitions of the house’s exterior: the row of snake plants that frame the console are also arranged in a line outside the Madison’s front door, stretching across the front of the house. The plants call our attention to other graphic repetitions: the nested horizontals of the wooden media console and VCR case are echoed in the horizontal vents in the house’s façade as well as the vertical encasement of the home’s narrow windows—fortress-like slits—and the front door’s own rectangular shell. In these ways the inside is always an outside; this modern house wears its heart—the living room—on its sleeve." [3]



Samara Golden: The Rape of the Mirror



"Feeling shipwrecked on a continental island, Night Gallery fakes her own death to escape into Samara Golden's shining sea of blue light and infinite horizon.

In her upcoming solo exhibition 'Rape of The Mirror,' Golden is the storm maker. Her hypothetical cyclone suspends in rotation the rooms of a demolished fantasy; reflecting back hurled pieces of styrofoam that once were the bricks of a dream home. As with Golden's previous work, 'Rape of The Mirror' is an active vortex to an emotionally complex multiverse. SHE is the eye of the tornado.

Inspired by movies such as The Long Goodbye and American Gigolo, Golden constructs an architecture of luxury made entirely of silver insulation material known as Thermax. Reflective furniture, a silver-plated jacuzzi and a queen-sized bed fitted with light blue sheets occupy the gallery space. A video of breaking waves crashes over the installation, illuminating the darkness while stretching the space to the other side of the earth. The gathering gloom watch as lights fade from every room with Golden's perpetual state of sunset plaguing the scene with a foreboding pink hue. Night Gallery is reborn as an ocean side villa dangling from a cliff in the sixth dimension.

'Rape of The Mirror' is a continuation of Golden's investigation of cyclical video-voyeurism as she presents the viewer with multiple perspectives using three cameras and two projectors. These technical mediations, combined with her homespun sculptures-of-deceit, create the Mirage of love. Blue is red and yellow is clear. Adhered to the gallery's back wall, atop a lattice of shelves, is a crying eye that looks upon this domestic setting and sees a house of broken glass transformed into a funhouse made of poor-(wo)man's mirrors.

Night Gallery anticipates her rebirth as a Thermax poem spanning different media and time sculpted by our Mother thunderstorm Samara Golden." [1]


"Rape of the Mirror": Bedroom installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror essentially remakes Night Gallery into two cracked fantasy rooms: a lounge with Jacuzzi and ocean view, and an interior master bedroom. Powder blue carpeting has been installed throughout the gallery, and the walls have been painted a similar color. Tall, empty, Ikea-style bookshelves loom everywhere. A few strange tchotchkes populate the bedroom; a single eye peers into the "window" of the lounge, which is also outfitted with an elaborate stereo system.

It's all very plush on the surface, but look closer and the whole shebang falls apart; almost all of the objects are created out of R-Max, a thin and flimsy foam board that's used to insulate homes. Give one of the shelves the lightest push and it'll fall over; try to sit on the bed and it will promptly cave in. The artifice here is touching -- it's as though a child has worked really hard to make the adult dollhouse of her dreams. Folded into this sense of longing is a sinister streak as well; violent scratches mar the surface of the bed, and the sheets dissolve into a shattered mirror, reflecting images from two video screens. On the sound system, Golden's voice can be heard singing a version of Brian Wilson's melancholy '’Til I Die.'" [2]

[LEFT] "Rape of the Mirror" Beachside installation (detail), 2011; Mixed media and Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery [RIGHT] "Rape of the Mirror": Stereos (detail), 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror": Bedroom installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Video feeds, positioned throughout the installation, play a key role. The large projection in the lounge gives the illusion of crashing waves outside of a window, while two projections in the bedroom spool through every image and video taken on Golden's iPhone in the last year. Others are live interactive feeds, providing opportunities for you to see yourself or others embedded within the artwork; Golden uses a nifty green screen effect so that captured bodies become canvases for projections. Overall, the video feeds function like wormholes enabling transportation and dialogue throughout the installation.

It's clear that this work is highly personal, but it's also highly absorbing. Golden has helpfully provided a comfortable sofa between these two rooms, so that viewers can have a leisurely place to sit and contemplate the work. This helps with soaking in the work's subtle details, and it also makes you feel like you're in it, like you're part of the movie set that the artist has created. Golden has been making interactive video/sculpture installations for some time, but this one feels more open and expansive than her previous efforts. Rape of the Mirror quietly invites you into its world, then takes you into others if you're willing." [2]

[LEFT] "Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Max Schwartz [RIGHT] "Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery



Oyster Magazine: Down the Rabbit Hole

[ED: Baby Genius Nick Scholl, of DIS, was recently asked by Oyster Magazine to name a favorite website in a game of telephone for which he chose my own, and for which I am greatly humbled and in his debt. To be included in any list that ends with Terre Thaemlitz is an honor beyond words. Full piece here.]



After Words: Hussein Chalayan, A/W 2000

[ED: Thirteen years later, this still takes my breath away.]

"Conceptual and visionary approach for Chalayan means quest into interdisciplinary spheres. His work is inspired by technology, science, philosophy, anthropology, politics, architecture. With Chalayan we cannot witness a typical visual reference to historical costumes or art pieces (as with Westwood or Galliano). Hussein Chalayan rather digs into his personal history and cultural identity; what has defined him as author of his life, torn between two cultural identities – the Cypriot and the British. The complexity of living with multiple ethnic and cultural identities has led him to themes such as nationality, migration, refugees, forced displacement, and ethnic cleansing." [1]

"In Afterwords, Hussein Chalayan focused on the involuntary and dramatic aspect of mobility, and illustrated the sentimental impacts of the forced migration. The installation has been synchronized by the runway including Chalayan’s Autumn/Winter Women’s Collection of 2000. It presents furniture covered in grey clothes, which are worn later by fashion models that strip the clothes from the furniture to dress themselves. These fashion models, who represent the immigrants in dull clothing, fold the chairs later in order to make them into suitcases. One of the models transforms a mahogany coffee table into a geometrical and telescopic skirt, so that it becomes displaceable on human body. 

According to the official website of the artist, Chalayan was inspired by the forced internal migration of the Turkish Cypriot families in Cyprus after the 1974 events. Chalayan’s family is told also to be among those who had to quit their homes in order to escape from the ethnic cleansing. The project does not only reflect the wretched atmosphere of the unwanted displacement, it also addresses to how the immigrants try to adjust to the situation by not leaving behind the personal possessions. This is made possible through the transformation of the possessions into detachable objects; such as chairs made into suitcases or tables into skirts." [2]

"The collection Afterwords for Autumn/Winter 2000 bursts with ethnic-cultural self-references. In one of the most exciting fashion presentations in past decades, Chalayan makes a strong political statement on the terrors of war and displacement. Very shortly after the Kosovo crisis in 1999 and the huge swathes of Albanian and Serbian refugees, he used his collection to remind of the Cyprus dispute and the ethnic cleansing in 1974. His own family has struggled in the period of displacement, when Cyprus has been divided in two parts – Greek domination in the South and Turkish domination in the North. It is estimated that up to 200,000 Greek Cypriots and 65,000 Turkish Cypriots were displaced by the Turkish invasion on the island.

Chalayan presented his collection as artistic performance, moving away from a typical catwalk show. He used Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London for staging the performance. Moreover, he produced the “After Words” video from the performance, which entered the portfolio of his art projects. The performance starts with 5 people sitting on chairs, representing a family. There is a round coffee table in the middle. When the models appear on stage, they clothe themselves with the clothes hidden on chairs; the coffee table becomes a skirt. The furniture transforms into wearable pieces and embodies Chalayan’s concept for a mobile environment. Chalayan’s aesthetical concept is evident: he goes back to Constructivism and its geometry, reductionism, sculpturalism, kinetics, and apparent absence of emotions." [1]

"Afterwords speaks from the viewpoint of the subaltern (or the subordinate group), those who are obliged to leave their homes, possessions and identifications as members of a certain society. The displacement which is narrated in this project signifies the momentum of the creation of a nation-state, with all its particularism aiming for the homogenization of a society. The subaltern position of the immigrants emerges from the fact that they are debarred from their civil, political and social rights of citizenship and their possessions which have the (liberal) symbolic meanings of identification to a certain society. Since the artist designs the clothes as portable private properties, the immigrants can carry these items that define their identities and cultures during their unwanted journeys. In a way, the clothes go beyond their original functionalities of covering or protection and their new main function becomes logistical of possessions in both concrete and abstract meanings. In the end, the portable clothing helps keeping the constitutive aspects of the own identities, which would be eventually embedded to the newly formed hybrid identities.

Hussein Chalayan challenges the historical context in which the immigrants had to leave behind their possessions and lose their identity because of their un-portable quality of the objects. In the press release of the project, Chalayan affirms that he has “wanted to somehow turn a horrific situation into something poetic”, and henceforth intervene to the historical context by the creation of a new narrative- an emergent minority discourse. It reflects the symbolic process of challenging the holistic and totalizing language of the nation, which has been argued before by Bhabha (153) with references to Fanon’s subaltern discourse and Kristeva’s feminist claims. Bhabha affirms that the new discourse interrupts the existing narrations, not through negating them but via renegotiating the imagination which was solidified over time. In Afterwords, Chalayan recognizes the displacement and the subordinate position of the immigrants (reinforced with the abrasive atmosphere, dull colors and depressing music), yet at the same time allows them a relatively more active position where they can adapt the physical nature to the social context." [2]

"The whiteness of the stage (a room) where the show is held emphasizes the moods of minimalism and calmness. It is obvious that Chalayan doesn’t want to evoke feelings of anxiety. Instead, he offers a sanctuary. He makes a safe-haven, a shelter for the refugees he refers to. Giving refugees a chance to take their possessions with them is a way of self-healing for Chalayan. He finds a design solution to the problem of displacement and gives his family, his people, and in the end all other refugees a compensation for their emotional struggle. In other words, he expresses his deep sentiments of belonging and compassion." [1]



Garouste & Bonetti, The World of Interiors, November 1996

[ED: Going through a semiannual neobaroque thing. Or neoprimitive. Whatever. Drape me in branches and horn and velvet. Additional post on Garouste & Bonetti for Christian Lacroix at SHOWstudio. Enjoy.]




"When the Garouste and Bonetti enterprise was started in 1980, it was the dawn of a flourishing era in the world of decoration. Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti came from different countries with different horizons. In Paris, Elizabeth had been to the ultra-liberal Ecole Alsacienne, where she was taught to 'express herself'. Elizabeth 'played at Picasso, or at prehistoric man' but, to her amazement, her unbridled imagination won her no more than four out of 20 in the baccalaureate drawing test.

She was still a very young woman when she married the painter Gerard Garouste, then just starting out. In the evenings, the Garoustes often went to Le Palace, the famous nightclub, and its restaurant, Le Privilege. Both were run by Fabrice Aemer, who clustered around him everyone who was creative or fun in 1970s Paris. It was here that the Garoustes met Mattia Bonetti. Bonetti, a Swiss, had attended the Ecole des Arts Appliqués a l'Industrie in Lugano and had worked on the fashion side of the textile business in Italy. Mattia was interested in cinema, photography and theater and he undertook several ventures with David Rochline, Elizabeth Garouste's brother."

"When, in 1979, Fabrice Aemer asked the Garoustes to redecorate both Le Palace and Le Privilege with Mattia Bonetti, the world of Paris nightlife was enchanted. It was the beginning of a highly successful partnership. 'We were fascinated by everything to do with ornamentation, illusion, baroque. We liked fake stones, prehistoric references, wrought iron and raffia – none of which were taken seriously at the time – and we decided, the three of us, to create a collection of 12 elements: chairs, screens, mirror lamps, tables. We each put 11,000FF into the venture.' When Gerard Garouste's paintings began to sell very well, he parted professional company with Elizabeth and Mattia, leaving them to their work as designers and decorators."

"At first the distribution of their objects proved difficult as Garouste and Bonetti defied categorization: they were neither craftsmen nor artists, neither fish nor fowl. Five or six years were to elapse before the opening of galleries such as Neotu or the lighting shop En Attendant les Barbares, both of which would be receptive to their work. In the meantime, Elizabeth, who looks like Snow White, and Mattia, a blond Prince Charming, were lucky enough to meet Jeanne Lambert de Loche, who was working at Jansen, the decoration mecca on the rue Royale. She offered them her shop window to display their collection, a minor event which generated major interest from the media. The company of Garouste and Bonetti was born.

Further recognition followed in 1986 when Christian Lacroix commissioned them to decorate his couture house and boutiques. In 1987 Bernard Picasso hired the team to design the furniture, objects and carpets for his house, and then there was a commission from Nina Ricci to design a new cosmetics line. David Gill introduced Garouste and Bonetti to the British public in 1988."

"'Our style hasn’t' changed much since the beginning, apart from the fact that the things we do are more sharply defined. We still like contrasting luxury materials such as gilded or silvered bronzer and wood, and we still prefer the natural look, which we call "organic style" because of its soft, asymmetrical outlines. What interests us is the outer frontier of good taste, the zone where kitsch and chic collide. Ours is an ambiguous blend, somewhere between Marie-Antoinette and Africa.'"


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