Whitelies sat down with Maria Foerloev, the founder of Copenhagen-based art and design gallery Etage Projects, to talk about avant-garde, interdisciplinary curation and new ways for expressing contemporary culture. Etage Projects blurs the lines between art and design, function and abstraction. Maria Foerloev reveals Whitelies why she is convinced that poetry and sociality of design are more needed than a new plastic chair.
Maria, whats’s your current state of mind?
Etage Projects isn’t a conventional gallery. How do you explain to people what you are doing?
I run a gallery in Copenhagen. From here I find and show work that translate conceptual visions into the realm of functionality and daily-life objects. It operates like an art gallery: we organise exhibitions of new, limited-edition work by conceptually-driven practitioners, and I act as a mediator between these and the clients. I work with artists who makes functional pieces and designers who works conceptually, and their work relies on an engaging experience you cannot get as a passive viewer. What interests me is how aesthetics affect us, and how ideas can translate into aesthetics.
What inspired you to explore a new concept of gallery and dare to enter a “grey area“ of curation?
I should start with the fact that I don’t make exhibitions for the public. Strangely enough, I make exhibitions for myself. Honestly its very selfish – Do I find meaning in this project? That is my motivation and hopefully the public relates. My hope is that the more authentic I am, the more people relate to it. As for ‘the grey area’- Today most artist initiates a question or an answer, and come up with a critical position. Designers can use design as a tool to make things, and to develop scenarios for reflection. The processes are very alike and then (to me) there are not that much difference between the two. I just try to create a platform for contact and the concept here is that our surroundings affects us.
You come from a well-known danish family of creatives. Your father’s aunt, a textile artist, has been married to designer and architect Arne Jacobsen. How did your upbringing shape your way of seeing?
That seeing is the beginning of questioning.
What makes the mix of design and art so attractive these days?
Poetry and sociality is needed. As I see it the world really doesn’t need another table or chair, we have a plastic continent floating around somewhere in the ocean. Many people need more than ‘buy and be trendy (at least until next season) cycle’ to satisfy themselves. We want to satisfy our souls - ideas, sociality, emotions and engagement. Most people are already full - of food, comforts and clothes - then you go looking for emotional needs that art and social connection can satisfy. Why then not add another layer of meaning into the things we use and engage with?
What’s more important for yourself? Functional or poetic design?
Why make the distinction? Of course I am not asking my Swiss army knife to give me poetic satisfaction – there is a need for pure function and that can be very pleasing. But other people can deal with that much better than me. I am interested in function as a hook between poetry and the user.
How do you see the connection between Etage Projects and contemporary culture? The dissolve of gender roles, globalization and digitalization? Do you think without the rising liberalization and openness Etage Projects would have been possible?
Well, the definition of design has become very open for a larger group of people. Everybody must decide for themselves what design means to them. I find that very intriguing. We are focusing more on how we interact with an object, and how it changes our behavior. The internet world is also transferred into the real world. How thinking is happening on a meta level, how structures and things that we construct for the internet world, is a parallel world and are connected to the things that surround us. Social media has changed how we create communities, now defined by interests not by geography. Which means that EP is as likely to find clients on the other side of the world as next door in Copenhagen. We live in a dissolutioned time where many of our values seems to be under pressure – but at the same time new things are happening which address these challenges. Maybe it’s a good time to think creatively and to be open to new ways. I don’t believe that EP rides on a wave of new openness and liberal thinking – It is the aesthetics that has changed. Art and design reacts to the current – that is not a new thing! Fx Superstudio and Archizoom in the 70´s was about social projects, community, humanity, sociality and was very related to material. On the other side you had the Kinetic movement which drew on science, technology, machines and mechanics. Most of the time it is about these paradoxes: order and chaos, rational and irrational, mechanical and free. We need these opposites to keep society in balance. Etage Projects is just here now giving space for expressing contemporary culture.
I imagine yourself as a very open-minded person, who doesn’t know boundaries. Do boundaries exist for you and if yes where do you see them?
Haha, I am probably as complex as anyone. I have boundries sure, just ask my kids! What drives me is curiosity and to actively question and push the lines between art and design, abstraction and function. My interest is to extend and enrich the field of interdisciplinarity and collective culture and therefore you are right in the sense that I am open minded. But I do identify whether something is relevant and aesthetically generous as opposed to being an annoying need for self-expression.
The current exhibition at Etage Projects shows the work of Barcelona based architect and designer Guillermo Santomá. How did his work catch our attention?
I saw his home years ago and thought that he showed exceptional creativity in the way that was not only the work of an architect, it was also the work of a poet. With the artistic formula 'to create is to destroy', he works to deconstruct the fixed images of design. Never pre-sketching his work, his work is a constant process of deformation and creation.
You once said you see yourself as “missionary“. What’s the ultimate mission of Etage Projects?
I want to continue to present works that encourage to look at objects in a novel manner. (well that and the death of interior trends)