Mitate Collection: Studio Wieki Somers Lamps 23.09.13

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Studio Wieki Somers has created a family of lamps inspired by visits to Japanese Samurai houses

The samurai way of life, bushido, is characterised by seven virtues that are perhaps most familiar to Western audiences from films such as Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. Each attribute – rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honour and loyalty – is easily recognised, but hard to visualise. What does "courage" or "benevolence" look like? Following several trips to Japan and a residency in Tokyo, Rotterdam-based Studio Wieki Somers posed just this question.

It presents its answer as a family of lamps, recently exhibited at Gallery Kreo in Paris, each reflecting one of the seven virtues of bushido. Their forms were inspired by visits to samurai houses and by the symbolic three-dimensional flags crafted from unconventional materials by samurai, which are used to identify different clans. "We decided to create a contemporary equivalent of these flags by translating them into 'light poles' that symbolise the period in which we live," Somers says.

The tasselled circular tube of the Gi (Cord Lamp) represents rectitude; the mirrored shade of the Makoto (Reflection Lamp) reflects light outwards so that the light source is visible, in a literal interpretation of honesty; and the shade of the Yuu (Mirror Lamp) comprises a laminate of wood veneer and fibreglass – a reference to strength and courage. "When you switch the lamps on," Somers says, "they become alive."

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The materials are thoroughly contemporary, reflecting the context in which they have been crafted. The virtues they evoke, however, have their origins in another time and place, creating an interesting dialogue between what the objects are and what they represent. The role of tradition, custom and craft in contemporary society is also addressed in the handcrafted constructions.

These layered meanings – present in much of Studio Wieki Somers' work – relate to the Japanese concept of "mitate", from which the collection takes its name. "Mitate means to look at an object in a different way to how it is intended," Somers says. "It means looking at an object as something else, with fresh eyes, so that it is experienced in a completely new manner. There are various hidden layers of meaning to be discovered in mitate, and these combinations sometimes have a surprising and humorous effect."

 

Image

Fabrice Gousset

 

Words

Mandi Keighran

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Mitate means to look at an object in a different way to how it is intended. It means looking at an object as something else, with fresh eyes, so that it is experienced in a completely new manner

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