MANIERA presents an exhibition with furniture by architecture studio MOS
Last weekend MANIERA presented another show in a historically significant architectural setting. After the presentation at Roelants House designed by Willy Van Der Meeren, MANIERA will present the new objects by MOS at the gallery from the 16th of June.
For MANIERA, MOS designed furniture and objects inspired by the Shakers community, a very religious community in the United States, mainly active in the 18th and 19th centuries. Central to their vision of furniture and space was the pragmatic, the functional, and the simple. The Shakers made 'Peg Furniture', which means furniture with sticks or pegs. With the Peg Collection, MOS has created a number of pieces for MANIERA that keep this philosophy in mind, but take it a step further. The objects are simple and straightforward, but sometimes serve multiple functions. Modular and simple objects - a storage basket, stools, a sofa, an outdoor stove - with a twist.
At MANIERA Gallery
June 16 – September 18, 2021
From Wednesday to Saturday
2 – 6 pm
Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of MOS, based in New York, have always made furniture design a part of their practice. As Sample notes, “We’re interested in making things, not buying things. If we need a table, we make it. If we need a seat, we make it.” Like Hasegawa they were interested in exploring what they call “a brutal economy of scale,” no doubt in response to the contemporary moment, with the need to conserve resources, be mindful of waste, and treat invention as critical. For their design for MANIERA, MOS investigated American approaches to furniture making, turning to Shaker furniture as inspiration.
The Shakers were nineteenth-century America’s largest and most well-known communal utopian society, boasting thousands of Brothers and Sisters in the early 1800s. Today only a handful remain, and yet their legacy is long. Their work ethic, high-quality output, and objects made to last are concerns that continue to have currency today. MOS’s design was also motivated by the exceptional craftsmanship of Shaker objects, especially the baskets that were a staple, made with an open hexagonal weave and sturdy enough to be used to harvest fruit or drain cheese curds. With its utility and stripped-down yet elegant form, the Baskets exemplify the Shaker code of practice to make something useful and necessary, but also beautiful, with any decorative elements part of the design and supporting the function of the piece. The bolts that punctuate the Baskets are both functional and are the only decoration, other than color, on the piece. Available in a range of sizes and scales, the baskets/stools can seat one or two people side by side. The only thing missing is two handles, which would have governed a Shaker basket, making it easier for a pair of workers to hoist a heavy load. Rather than wood, MOS’s baskets are made from a latticework of metal strips outsourced from fabricators who send the finished parts to MOS to do the final assembly. “We have the last say,” affirms Sample. Like the Shakers who were also fastidious about quality, they live with their designs, including “failures and mistakes,” which Meredith says they learn from. With an enthusiasm for a hands-on approach that was shared by the Shaker brethren, they test out their work in their studio and home to ensure that it is fit for its purpose.
MOS’s interest in weaving techniques was born a number of years ago when Sample made what she calls tape blankets. Living in the Netherlands, and without the time and access to a loom to weave in the traditional way, she acquired rolls of double-stick colored tape. She would peel off the tape and create blankets by sticking different pieces of tape together in a crisscross formation. “It became like a sort of weaving project,” she recalls. “It was an immediate form of making something and precise, unlike architecture. I liked that.” Sample’s approach speaks to the studio’s current fascination with working with what’s available, whether materials or manufacturing processes.
The Peg Chair and Bench, also for MANIERA, are other cases in point. They underscore MOS’s satisfaction in finding off the rack components that they can repurpose for new uses. This time they appropriated thick wooden broomstick handles, cutting them down to size for the back and legs to create a whimsical, yet practical designs whose material origins are a part of their appeal. Other pieces include a Peg Rail, a reinterpreted Shaker design, typically hung on the wall and used for hanging up coats, keys, scarves, and other quotidian stuff, as a way to organize their communal homes. Updated by MOS, their metal, rather than wooden design, can be screwed together in different arrangements to meet individual and collective needs. Another common object found in Shaker homes is the wood stove, which MOS has rethought with their Stove/Chimney, made from simple component parts, such as a fire box fitted to a table, for outdoor gatherings. “One of the main values of the Shakers was a precise sense of utility, every object had a specific function” says Sample, “The objects we make typically have multiple uses - legs can be back rests, stoves can be tables, baskets can be stools, or something we haven’t imagined.”
The Dot System, like their Baskets, is another multi-functional object. Made from perforated metal panels bolted together, the rounded form, reminiscent of a child’s toy, functions as a seat, a table, or a bench. Finally, a sectional lounge chair also made from metal looks as if it was inspired by pew seating in a Meeting House. Erected from corrugated aluminum panels, it can be aggregated to form a circle or semicircle, making it fitting for congregating indoors or out. What MOS’s collection of works has in common is the rigor with which they approach their designs based on an economy of construction, an attitude that finds an affinity with the work of the late Italian designer Enzo Mari. Both MOS and Hasegawa, like Mari, put emphasis on the value of objects that have become subsumed into our daily lives, their origins forgotten or taken for granted.
Just as artists shift perspectives and open our imaginations, design too has the potential to reinterpret the familiar in ways that not only offer new typologies of objects that prompt us to question and even modify behavior, but also open space in our minds for new thinking about the physical and metaphysical relationships we have with the built environment.