--What led to your participation in DESIGNART?
I met Akio Aoki during the exhibition I did at SferaExhibition in Kyoto in 2015. Two years after this meeting, he kindly offers me to participate to the DESIGNART. I felt very honored by this quite unexpected invitation.
--How do you feel about being featured in the first edition of DESIGNART as your first ever exhibition in Tokyo?
I am very glad of this opportunity. I have had the opportunity to show my designs twice in Kyoto after my residency at Villa Kujoyama. Once at Sfera and once at Forum Kyoto, for an artistic performance. Since then, I always wanted to show my work in Tokyo because it is really exciting to have an exhibition in a city as huge as this one, with so many things happening there. I kind of like the idea that it I may be unnoticed because of the immensity of Tokyo.
--That is a very unique way of thinking. But your exhibition is going to be our main feature so I am sure your exhibition will not be unnoticed. Tell us about the concept of your exhibition and about your new work. Is there anything you would especially like visitors to pay attention to?
For this exhibition, I chose to show things that come exclusively from my studio. Things that surround me daily, that constitute the environment in which I work and in which I spend most of my time. These objects come from my personal archives or simply from inside the studio. There are pieces that I have designed, drawings and sketches, prototypes but also some items that I have acquired during my life. These objects that I value a lot are often placed on the shelves or the walls of the atelier.
After selecting the pieces I wanted to show in the exhibition, I spent time to find the right compositions, confrontations or juxtapositions of the different elements by placing them on horizontal "platforms" of equal scale.
It was a bit like composing the pages of a book but with real objects, it also reminded me of the work that was done for my monograph with the JRP Ringier Edition in 2014. This set of platforms contains an idea of the variety of my practice and of the formal universe that characterizes my work. In addition, I will present in exclusivity the wooden shelves (low and tall model) I designed for the Japanese brand TAIYOU & C. The shelves will be placed on the left wall behind the platform set.
--As a designer, artist, and scenographer, there’s an impression that you move easily between the worlds of design and art. Is this something you are aware of when working on projects? What is the big difference between design and art?
I was trained as an artist and I have not really decided to become a designer. I move naturally from the art world to the design world through the opportunities I had and people I met during my early career. Somehow, my way of working is close to contemporary artist’s ways in the sense that I do not need a brief or a mandate to start drawing things and I always look at objects as if they were forms before being objects.
Despite my artistic training, I regard myself as a designer first. Most of the things I design have a proper and define use, they respond to a function even if it can be quite fuzzy sometimes. Art doesn't need this kind of alibi to produce forms and meanings.
--As a designer, you also showcase special editions and art pieces. These products seem to have a stronger artistic bent than your other work. What is your thinking on this?
It is true but I don't want to make a hierarchy between unique pieces and more industrial productions when it comes to the work process. The important thing for me is to understand how to be yourself within the context you are working for. For example, drawing objects for design galleries involves taking into consideration this special context and market which is basically based on finding non- standard objects of exceptions for a restricted audience. Things are completely different for industrial products that have different production constraints for a wider market (not necessarily mass production that is even more excessive). Whatever the context, I try to work with the same rigor each time.
--What kinds of projects are you working on recently? Are you collaborating with any Japanese companies? And if so, could you
tell us anything about those collaborations.
New objects I did for Hermès Maison will be launched soon and I am working on new projects for the Galerie Kreo. I did a more industrial project of decorated ceramic tiles with the Italian brand Cermiche Piemme that will be launched this fall. I am also currently working with the Japanese ceramic brand 1616/ Arita on a tableware collection that will be out soon. In 2015 I collaborate with Japan Creative, I designed a candle and incense holder made of silicon and recently I worked with TAIYOU & C., a new company launched by the design studio Mikiya Kobayashi in 2016. The shelves I designed will be shown in my DESIGNART solo show. In addition to thins for the exhibition space artwork I will be using “BELAY”, a new paint which I have done the color direction of and developed by Washin Chemical Industry CO., LTD.
--We are looking forward to seeing your newest collaborations with Japanese companies and an artwork that will be first shown at this exhibition. Exhibitions such as Maison et Objet focus on showing designers’ work to other professionals. At DESIGNART we want to exhibit at locations where the work can also be seen by the public. This has been our focus in choosing locations. What would you like the public to take away from these exhibitions and do you have a message for them?
I am very happy to be able to show my work to a wide audience to a varied and foreign public and also to a public who will for the first time discover my work. From my previous exhibition experiences in Japan, I noticed that the Japanese public did not react the same way as the European public. In general, the Japanese visitors are more willing to contemplate and express astonishment or pleasure when they see something they love. I really appreciate that.
--What is your impression of Tokyo, especially compared to other international cities? Do you have a favorite spot in Tokyo?
Tokyo is an enormous city, a megalopolis which I am not very familiar with yet but I didn't feel this immensity because it seems to be an assembly of "small villages." There is such a variety of landscapes, I really enjoyed wandering around all these different areas. It is not a homogeneous city like Paris.
--What are you looking forward to the most during this DESIGNART and your stay in Tokyo?
As I said I do not know the city very well and I look forward to staying there for some time and hope to discover new parts of the city. But will I have time?
In general I like to travel to a country or a city when I have something specific to do there. It is a very good way to discover people and places. When I have the chance to travel several times in the same city, I love to go back to places I already know and where I have my little habits but not the same that I have in Paris. Basically I am not really interested in the classical idea of tourism.
--What do you think of DESIGNART’s concept of not only exhibition pieces but of also viewing the ‘entire town as a design museum’ including architecture.
It seems to be a good idea to show various scales as objects and architecture in the same exhibition. For me, these two spheres are an indivisible whole. It is also a good opportunity for the public to discover different places in town.
What’s next for you? What kinds of projects would you like to work on in the future?
I have some difficulty projecting myself into the future and I have no special fantasy for the future. I love unexpected encounters. I would like to be called by someone I have not met yet and that this person asks me to draw something I have never drawn and that I do not expect. It happens to me already this year when I was asked to design the medal for the Paris 2017 marathon, I had been confronted to a world that was completely foreign to me. As for now, I know that on the 6th of October I take a flight for Osaka, that I will be DESIGNART will be open on the 16th.
photographs: manabu matsunaga