Studio Job Mad House 20.04.16

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For their New York solo debut, the Belgian designers have put together a typically exuberant snapshot of their 16-year career, says Caia Hagel

New York’s Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) recently launched the first solo museum exhibition in the US to explore the creative vision of design collaborators Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel of Antwerp’s infamous Studio Job.

In this expansive show, Studio Job Mad House, two of the museum’s floors have been transformed into a faux-collector’s home. This immersive experience features a range of sculpture, lighting, furniture, floor coverings, wallpaper, drawings, a sound piece and signature heraldic-cartoonish homeware objects, all designed by the duo over the past 16 years. Curated by the designers themselves and playing on the history of arts patronage, collecting and display, the 57 featured works follow an imaginary narrative. Fusing elements of history, fantasy, irony and autobiography, the effect is richly aesthetic and deeply unsettling. Upside-down icons, sarcastic walls, fetishised comforts and Second Life floors lure us into a world that bridges IRL with URL just seductively enough that we accept being manhandled by the force of their mercurial humour.

At the exhibition’s press preview visitors went iPhone crazy, snapping every piece; some, clearly undeterred by the bad reputation of its namesake, that horny demi-god— even tried to get selfies in the Pan mirror. While the audience succumbed to intimacy with the objects, Job Smeets gave a tour through this make-believe world at breakneck speed, pointing out his favourite oddities.

Four pieces made their international debut among the menagerie: the aforementioned Pan wall mirror; the Pipe table; the Sex Cake table lamp; and the Sinking Ship table, along with sketches and full-scale colour drawings – works of art in themselves – that document the studio’s artistic process. Smeets said the new pieces referenced “downfall, sex, surrealism, Titanic, kitsch and maybe even bullshit. Whatever you want, it’s all fine!” On the sound piece, he added: “Well, we just recorded it. I think it’s a disaster. But what can I do?” If it wasn’t clear already, this Mad House is way mad.

In that delirious zone we reach far too rarely, we begin to understand that the designers have come to a place of maturity in their practice where they, and now we, can contemplate how nearly two decades of work fits together – to create a world that looks like a video game but feels like a dream. We’re not sure if this dream is a good or a bad one, but Smeets called it something that sounds suspiciously Zen: “We are all here or there but one thing is for sure: we go nowhere!”

 

Words

Caia Hagel

 

Studio Job Mad House
Museum of Arts and Design
22 March 22 – August 21, 2016
madmuseum.org

quotes story

Well, we just recorded it. I think it’s a disaster. But what can I do?

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