Matthias Megyeri | icon 028 | October 2005

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Matthias Megyeri
My work is inspired by how people live in London. They have a huge desire for security products, and I’m not very happy with that.

In my initial research I noticed two things. The first was the world of security products like razor wire. There’s a lot of razor wire in Hackney Wick but you see it everywhere – in South Kensington, Peckham and so on. It’s just that they’re differently made. The cheapest way is with broken glass, for example, but even that you find in South Ken.

The second thing I noticed is a world of kitsch and cuteness – how people decorate their walls with butterflies or their cars with kitschy objects. I thought this mix of security and kitsch was interesting. These are private homes that their owners paid for with mortgages that last for years, but they look like prisons. I’m not very comfortable with this. I find it scary and I see them as expressions of contemporary psychological illnesses: paranoia and the exaggerated signs of cuteness.

I come from Stuttgart, which is quite a tidy smaller town; a “safe” city. There’s a big difference, but it’s partly because it’s a smaller city. Everybody knows that London has one of the highest numbers of CCTV cameras, but there are other security devices too. I’m not saying there’s no reason for it, because we are living here in a gated community [Megyeri’s studio/flat is in an industrial estate surrounded by high fences] and there is a reason for that. But there is an extent
to which it is unrealistic.

There’s a bigger gap in society between the well-off and poor in London than in Germany. Here there are many more poor people. National statistics on the relationship between fear and crime say that 72 per cent of adults thought that crime had risen 30 per cent in the past two years – but it had actually decreased. Guardian readers fear less than Sun readers – it’s the less well-off that can’t do anything against being influenced by the media, and therefore invest in security products more.

Sweet Dreams Security is all about these specific references. The black London railing is from when Queen Victoria was in mourning for Albert and ordered everyone to paint their railings black. With the [R Bunnit, Peter Pin and Didoo] railings, I wasn’t trying to make something more beautiful, but to make it as sickly cute as possible. So I gave the animal heads extreme smiles to make them look insane, to show the madness of things that look cute. CCTV cameras are usually grey or silver so that they blend into the background. I had the idea to make them look like cats, because I thought the cables that come out of the back look like tails.

I’m happy when people pass by and say “that’s beautiful”, and nothing else, but I’m offering something else to think about.

Razor wire is international and so is broken glass, but the ADT box is something I find particularly in London or England. Most burglar alarm boxes here are fake, though.

I came to live in London because my girlfriend was already living here, and I did my MA at the Royal College of Art. We didn’t plan to stay for long, but I was invited on the NESTA Pioneer Programme, a business course for designers. Through that we stayed here and it went on and on. Now it feels like we’re settled.

There are a lot of opportunities here compared to Stuttgart. On one hand it is very difficult but on the other there are more opportunities to reach people who are interested in what you’re doing. It’s because of the variety of different people here. You have people from all over the world and of all different interests, from art collectors to bankers, and all those occupations are more extreme than I’ve seen in Germany. You can always find people that are interested in what you’re doing.

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