CONVERSATION

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers

issue #20: Everyday design

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova, artist, journalist and coordinator at @akbild & Jeffrey Heiligers, creative director and design consultant for @thefutureprospectslab, @1m2collective founder and guest lecturer at @amfinl. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here.

Diaries of: @nataly_gurova & @jeffrey_heiligers

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
viennadesignweek.at
1. NG: At the @viennadesignweek 2022 you presented the special exhibition ‘Liquid House’, realised together with the Dutch @1m2collective. It is an exhibition about common objects, whose design is very much influenced by the availability of resources. How can a shortage of resources become a stimulus for creators/designers? And when instead an insurmountable limit?

Firstly, it is much easier to decide on 2 or 3 options than from 10, but that’s only at first glance. It is likely to take even more time to create an object with limited resources than with an abundance of them, but it all depends on what we want to achieve and by what means. In my project, the artists made their own choices based on their experience with the materials. Each of them had one main material and one medium in their arsenal, like wood and staples, plaster and light, ceramics and pedestals, etc. Art history tells us that minimalists could create with one or two elements, a wall, and light, just paper, one’s own body, and the list goes on and on. So everything is limited only by the author’s intention. Of course, if we start thinking about the functionality and use of the object, the limitations can be of all sorts. What to make a table if I have 50 centimeters and two sides around it, a budget of 30 euros? These are all interesting questions to answer

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Works by Mila Balzhieva and Neda Nikolic
2. NG: One of the aims of your work is to raise awareness about the position of migrants in design. What did your investigation highlight?

I ended up working with seven artists I selected through an open call. I conducted it with the help of @viennadesignweek, of @1m2collective and @kueltuergemma! As it turned out, there was a lot of interest in the subject. A lot of people wrote to me. Those who didn’t apply for participation were still interested in the project’s development, which is very lovely, but it also shows that the connection of the topic of limited resources, migration, and design is of interest to artists and designers as well as just ordinary people. In the process, it became clear that, on the one hand, many people are doing something but have structural limitations that prevent them from doing something in the design field. For example, they don’t have the appropriate education; they don’t understand how the system works and how to create a network around them.

On the other hand, when you start studying the biographies of those who design, you see that people come from a particular environment, have a good education and a supportive environment, and have a start-up resource to develop their talents. And, of course, people have a lot of stereotypes in their heads about how things work and limiting beliefs. But most importantly, there is a lack of information about what and how you can do to get where you want to be.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Work by Natalia Gurova
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@nataly_gurova
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@nataly_gurova
3. JH: You define @1m2collective as an interdisciplinary design platform that aims to achieve a more inclusive design industry. What obstacles still need to be overcome for this to really happen?

I think this is a very hard and complex questions to answer, because I believe there is not one way or one solution to make all the issues disappear. It will take time, dedication and speaking up by multiple individuals, offering alternative routes and introducing fresh faces to the scene of art and design. I think one of the biggest obstacles is lowering barriers of entry and replacing certain people in key positions within all different industries. Most of them are reluctant to change and prefer to stick to known and comfortable routines. Although art and design always have been mediums to question and challenge ‘the norm’, as an industry we refuse to acknowledge that drastic changes need to be made. What are we scared of?

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@jeffrey_heiligers
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
1m2 Collective member @michiel_de_jong_⁠ with the project "Do it Yourself"
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@jeffrey_heiligers
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@jeffrey_heiligers
4. NG: The relationship between art and society is always very complex and intricate. What are the phenomena in today’s society that contemporary artists are investigating most intensively?

Art is still in the XX and has started exploring new territories. We are talking about science, political activism, technology, etc. This story continues to this day. But it seems to me that there are several theme applications. We can see the reflection of many of them at various biennials, festivals, and exhibitions. Artists are interested in the relationship between society and technology. All the questions that @donnaharaway1944 raised in her works concern the community. We are probably cyborgs, and when the technological and the human come together, how dangerous it is, and how it will change us and the world around us. Of course, women empowering, sensitive, and generally non-binary, non-patriarchal, non-masculine views of the world. What could this world be like? What is missing in it, and what, on the contrary, hindered us? Issues of community life, inclusion, human rights, and functionality of various groups. I immediately want to talk about collectivity, work in dialogue, open copyright, and non-linear, disordered connections between formats. Recent events related to wars and protests in different countries sharpen the problem of colonialism and alternative world order, relations between people and government institutions, and await the study of the situation. A lot of things that artists find suitable research.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@nataly_gurova
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@nataly_gurova
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@nataly_gurova
5. NG: You often organise art workshops, in which you can build a simple piece of furniture using recycled materials, leftovers of larger objects and simple tools such as a hammer, saw, screwdriver and wire. Can you tell us about a result that particularly impressed you? How can this specific experience become common practice?

Many exciting discoveries are made by workshop participants within a relatively limited time frame. I have always been amazed at the ability of the participants to look at the surrounding resources in a new way. For example, you can walk down the street, find a piece of metal pipe, and then use it to make a table. Also, everyone has their focus: someone thinks about the balance and stability of this or that element, someone about the visual component and tries to bring the object closer to well-known forms, and someone begins to fantasize and ultimately leaves the bunch of functionality and material.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@nataly_gurova
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Natalia Gurova studio | Works by Laura Pirgie, Lena Gold and Natalia Gurova
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Natalia Gurova studio | Works by Laura Pirgie, Lena Gold and Natalia Gurova
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Natalia Gurova studio | Works by Laura Pirgie, Lena Gold and Natalia Gurova
6. Visiting @viennadesignweek, I often think that the focus is on process, experimentation and investigation, rather than on the finished product. What is an installation, or a creation, that particularly impressed you? For what reasons? What values does it convey?

NG: I liked THE INSTANT NOODLE REPAIR CAFÉ of @pekin_roasted_duck / @pierrecastignola at the entrance to Rahlgasse. The guys made a bar from improvised materials and used materials from which children make crafts to create a soft and bright table surface. In general, the guys created an amiable atmosphere by treating everyone with pancakes of their noodles and by the furniture they invented.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
viennadesignweek.at
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
viennadesignweek.at

JH: I may be a bit bias, however my favourite was Natalia’s installation. It questions multiple layers of  politics, the industry of art and design, but also society as whole. What is design? What recourses are available? What is your social status? How does society reflect on you as an individual? And maybe even addresses shame. My preference is not necessarily a finished product. We have enough of them. I prefer open endings that makes us think and re-think what actually is important and what possibilities we could potentially move forward to.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
viennadesignweek.at
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Work by Alexandra Bulgakova, part of Liquid House project
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Work by Natalia Gurova
7. You both work very carefully on the exhibition presentation of the project. Outside of your work, are there any museum displays that have particularly impressed you and that we should know about? Can you give us a destination on Instagram where we could see them?

NG: I live in Vienna, so I remember the Hungry for Time exhibition (@kunstsammlungenakademievienna) , which artists and curators from India curated – @raqsmediacollective. It was a very complex and multifaceted work. The curators worked with the @akbild, including works by Albrecht Dürer and Hieronymus Bosch. But many young artists were invited to participate in the project, whose work is rarely shown in Europe. The Austrian artists Nicole Six e Paul Petritsch worked on the display. It seems to me that at this exhibition, one could see all possible approaches to the organization of space in the conditions of a classical art gallery. I liked that they used silver platforms that held objects from the gallery’s collection, next to which you could sit on foam cushions. Usually, the distance between the object of art and the viewer is quite large, especially when it comes to classical art objects; here, the artists decided to reduce it.

JH: One museum that is really high on my list to visit is @oscamonline in Amsterdam Zuidoost. I really like their philosophy; ‘Anyone who wants to participate without excluding others is welcome in Zuidoost, and in the Open Space Contemporary Art Museum’.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
1m2 Collective Exhibition 2022
8. JH: Besides @1m2collective, you are also the founder of @thefutureprospectslab: a design consultancy that focuses on research and prototyping. What does your work consist of?

@thefutureprospectslab is an independent design consultancy for complex image and vision issues. I currently help companies and organisations in the educational and cultural sector. I do this by using design as a communication tool to bring systemic change and new experiences into the core of their identity and the processes that go with it. This way you regain control of the things you do with the right intention. Lowering barriers and start an open conversation about urgent issues in the world and create a better connection with your audience.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Pierre Castignola, 1m2 Collective 2021
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Krafla Design, 1m2 Collective 2021
9. Talking about you as a person, outside of work: what are some activities that make you feel good reconnecting with the world? Are there any personal projects you are working on?

NG: I like to communicate with nature and animals. I have a cat, and sometimes I think I need to make some strange feline piece of furniture for her. I also work for an organization that helps artists fleeing the war in Ukraine (Office Ukraine). It makes you feel like you are in a completely different role and allows you to look at your practice with different eyes. Now I’m thinking about how to adapt the design shown at Vienna Design Week for a museum limited space. And also about how to make a huge cow parsnip (Heracleum) from transparent materials and talk about toxicity and environmental and political imbalance through the object.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@nataly_gurova
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@nataly_gurova

JH: I like to work with my hands and experiment with existing techniques. I think this comes from my  fascination with processes, wanting to understand how things work and come together, but also finding solutions if it doesn’t work out as planned. At the moment I’m hand knotting a tapestry out of waste fabrics, 100cm x 200cm.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
@1m2collective
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Weimin Zhu, 1m2 Collective 2022
Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Weimin Zhu, 1m2 Collective 2022
10. What is an object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory attached to it? Would you send us a photo taken by you?

NG: the tiny wooden spice cabinet that my friend gave me. Its elements are connected without nails and screws. Despite its advanced age, it is very compact and pleasant to look at. It will look good with any interior. I also have a table made for a project on the street, which then migrated to my house. It’s a little clunky, but I like that despite that, it’s stable. My cat loves to lie on it.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Nataly Gurova

JH: My wardrobe. It was a present from my parents when me and my partner bought our first house. It used to be in the house I grew up in and I always said I would love to have it. It has emotional value and I would never give it up. Also I would like to address the quality of this piece of furniture. It was built to last and that is something I find really important.

Caleido interviews Natalia Gurova & Jeffrey Heiligers
Jeffrey Heiligers

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