“My urban living room“ is a new project by smart and BoConcept: As part of the intriguing set-up, four artists – or teams of artists – in four different European cities get the chance to create their very own urban living room in public space.
After Munich and Copenhagen “My Urban Living Room”‘s next stop is Paris! Here we asked the artists Jeremy Agnew and David Myron to present their interpretation of an urban living room at the Place de la République in Paris. Like Helle, Steffen and Benjamin before, Jeremy and David got to play with the BoConcept smartville collection and the smart fortwo edition BoConcept. Read on to find out more about their installation.
In your opinion: What defines a living room?
What does a room need in order to make you feel comfortable and at home?
We design and shape our living environments to suit our needs and tastes. Some people prefer a homely, cozy feel and fill their space with objects that conjure up a sensation of comfort. Others prefer a more minimalist approach and opt for openness, a neutral feel, room to breathe, and fewer objects. The negative space (or ‘air’ inbetween) remains as important as the positive space inhabited by actual objects. It is an often neglected, but vital part of the environment that can drastically alter the feel and perception of a living room.
So, instead of focusing on the room’s ‘positive’ objects, which change from person to person, we wanted to draw attention to this negative space; to the empty air that exists within every single living room. From this premise, we started to play with the idea of a ‘living’ room that is actually alive, with the obvious notion that the air it contains sustains us. So, the main question turned out to be how we could bring this invisible, or at least usually unnoticed, volume of space to life.
How private is a living room?
The living room is a bastion of safety, a place of seclusion, and yet a space we invite others to enter when we feel comfortable with their person and presence. Our own installation encourages interaction. It invites viewers to come inside and be a part of it. This interaction with the environment was something that we felt was vital to the experience.
Your new living room takes privacy public at the well-known Place de la République in Paris. How did you approach this daunting task?
We bought 10 kilometers of ribbon and created a modular frame that – attached to high-tensile metal cables – supported an enormous diamond of flowing yellow ribbons. It was a huge undertaking and we had to recruit many of our friends, lured by the promise of wine and pizza, to get all of the 4,000 strands or ribbon cut and attached to our modular lattice frameworks. It was a bit like a Chinese sweatshop filled with tipsy friends and loud music. There is no way we could have pulled it off in time without their help.
Dyson kindly supplied us with five air multiplier fans: These not only looked stunning surrounded by all of those ribbons, but performed wonderfully, rotating back and forth to blow the ribbon outwards.
We placed BoConcept’s fantastic furniture within and around the ribbons to allow the public to use chair and sofa to watch the flowing movement in comfort and style. Our adapted leather BoConcept chair was supposed to embody the essence of the installation, featuring a diamond shape sewn into the front and a streaming ribbon at the back.
Why did you pick this particular place? What is so special about the location?
The Place de la République has a wonderful history, but we actually chose it for its openness and modern approach to public space. République recently underwent a facelift and the designers behind it were pretty clever and thoughtful about engaging the public with an inviting and beautiful meeting point. There are fountains of mist for the children, a stall with book and game rentals, a contemporary café for all those Parisians who like to enjoy a coffee and smoke in the sun, out on chunky wooden benches or behind the safety of sheets of glass, and – finally – the historic central fountain that towers over the square’s imposing trees. The whole space is visually and physically stimulating; it brought out the best in our installation.
Why did you use a yellow ribbon as the center piece of your installation?
We wanted the car and furniture to serve as positive elements in our space. When we looked at BoConcept’s design principles for the limited edition smart car and furniture, we figured a way to integrate all of the aspects of our installation: They really emphasized the playfulness of the design, among other via the yellow trim of the car and furniture. To us, this element proved the perfect medium to extend and integrate the car and furniture. The yellow ribbon is sunny, bright, fun, and really embodies the feeling of being alive. The ribbon element was inspired by a fantastic artist called Zilvinas Kempinas whose installations bring cassette tape to life. And we also adore the impressive outsized works of contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
What kind of role does the car play in your installation?
We positioned the smart car at a corner of the diamond. The ribbon was cut to the contour and shape of its bonnet and windshield to convey the impression of an object in actual negative space. We also opened the roof, allowing the ribbon to hang down and brush the seats. The doors are open to the public and invite visitors to get in, sit down, and look through the windshield at the hundreds of strands brushing the surface. The whole experience is truly mesmerizing; like being in a carwash, but less wet and scary!
How did people react to your installation?
Everyone was surprisingly inquisitive. Initially, we had been worried that Parisians might be too cool to care, but they walked around it, got inside, and ran their hands through the ribbon. It was wonderful to see people’s senses being stimulated. They came away with smiles and questions and we were really happy to hear what they had to say – and to explain why we had created the whole installation.
I overheard people say things like “hypnotizing,” “beautiful,” and “I can’t focus on anything when I’m inside all of that neon yellow!” In bright sunlight, and when the ribbon was stirred by both fans and wind, the whole thing got so intense that you really needed sunglasses to keep your balance and not get dizzy.
Are there any future plans you would like to share? Where are you headed next?
We are in the process of setting up a new type of design collective. One that transcends borders, has an open transparent methodology, and a flat hierarchy. Basically, everything you wish you had at work but your boss won’t let you. It’s really exciting and we are calling it Anew Design.
We love the idea of this new marketing approach where you mix art with products and services. It’s a brave and courageous move for a company to tell an artist that “there is no definitive structured brief, please make something wonderful and amaze us!” This creative freedom is refreshing and the challenge is to create something that captures both the essence of our art and that of the client’s brand. Working with the teams from KMB, smart, and BoConcept was really good fun, so we were lucky to have been invited to take part. Yet working for and with exciting and interesting people is generally really important to us. We have started to work with the most creative and fun freelancers between Paris and London and are now on the lookout for more potential collaborators from literally any background or skillset. It’s all one great adventure …
Interview Alexandra Schade
All photos, incl. the header image, by Natalie Weiss
Header image: smart fortwo edition BoConcept (combined consumption 4.9-4.2l/ 100 km or 15.1 kWh/ 100 km, CO2 emissions (combined) 115-0 g/ km)