They've designed a hair comb resembling a knuckle-duster and a radio in the shape of a cross. The design duo of Ewa Bochen and Maciej Jelski formed in 2006, and often uses provocative juxtapositions to 'evoke emotions in the viewer'.
Radio (2009), a receiver in the shape of a wooden cross that is turned on with a handclap, stirred up much controversy. Kosmos Project’s design was considered blasphemous by many, though it was conceived as a comment on the power of media and on the loneliness of individuals in contemporary society. The design team says that the work was inspired by the Catholic broadcaster Radio Maryja. "We were impressed by the strength of this medium", they said in an interview with the Wysokie Obcasy weekly, "and we discovered that people have a very strong need to be a part of a community."
Radio exemplifies the objectives that Bochen and Jelski of Kosmos Project want their work to achieve. They both completed the Faculty of Design at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. Bochen continued her studies at the University of Technology in Milan, and Jelski furthered his education at the Academy of Art and Design in Stuttgart. As a team, they experiment with the forms of objects, researching the relations that develop between users and material items. In an interview with the magazine Czas Na Wnętrze, Kosmos Project says,
We believe that an object gains meanings when a viewer, who is experiencing something, looks at it. On the other hand, emotions are evoked by the effect an object has on the viewer. We draw inspiration for our projects from the relations and tensions existing between nature, man and technology..
They experiment with form, colour and material, juxtaposing objects from various spheres. In their realisations, they accentuate irrationality, often referencing Jung’s philosophy, chiefly inspired by his concept of "group unconsciousness", which explains the basic reactions, thoughts and actions of humans using such notions as instinct and archetype. They describe their projects as "new symbols" that convey the condition of contemporary man.
Their realisations are made from ecological, natural materials as well as from technologically advanced substances.The designers constantly balance between the vitality of biological forms and cold crudeness. Such objects as Comb-Knuckle-Duster (2009), Lulu Armchair (2010) and L1 Lamp (2010) are characterised by a geometrical simplicity of form and are made from minimalistic materials such as steel, wood, glass, leather, concrete.
The silver comb in the shape of a knuckle-duster exudes punk-rock style and corresponds well to the image of contemporary women, who have many often contradictory expectations and traits. The Lulu Armchair produced by Airnova, the Italian company, is on the other hand a modernized version of "grandma’s" armchair.
One of Kosmos Project's designs that strongly interested the media and critics was the L1 Lamp, made from concrete (a pavement fragment), a reinforcing bar and a fluorescent tube. The piece weighs approximately 40 kilograms. The object was shown for the first time at the Łódź Design Festival 2010. It constitutes an original attempt at revitalising materials considered disposable rubble. Ewa Trzcionka from the portal Designalive.pl says, "In a certain sense Kosmos’ idea refers to the classic lamp Arco Achille by Castiglioni. L1 is also a kind of a joke, which suggest that materials should be recycled". Copies of the lamp are made to order, with different sizes available and a version on offer with a LED lamp.
Kosmos Project's second group of designs consists of objects and interiors that refer to biological associations. The creators draw inspiration from the shape of the human heart, as evidenced by The Heart (2008) and Love (2008).
The wine decanter The Heart was made from laboratory glass shaped as the title suggests. The decanter provokes a broad range of interpretations: wine inside the vessel brings blood to mind, the heart is where emotions dwell, the decanter may be considered an alchemic vessel. The object retains, however, its practicality, notes Krystyna Łuczak-Surówka of designby.pl, "The decanter’s shape provides a comfortable grip. [...] The designers even figured out how to clean the decanter and provide a special cleaning brush, which is included in the box".
The project Love refers to a similar aesthetic. It is a gigantic black latex heart presented at the Łódź Design Festival 2008. Creating this work, Bochen and Jelski searched for a symbol of feelings more adequate to complicated, modern relations than the kitschy, Valentine’s Day red heart.
However it was the duo's work Microcosmos (2009) that became their fullest envisioning of corporeality in design. It is an interior design for the Suite d’Autore – Art Hotel in Palermo, which was distinguished at the Design Organico competition. Kosmos Project reached into the human body for inspiration, forming tissues, cells and biological structures. The creators juxtaposed textures – soft and hard, smooth and rough. The interior has two dominant elements: a wall between the bathroom and the bedroom, which brings to mind bone structures, and a red bed resembling a human heart. As Kosmos says, "We wanted to give this interior an air of intimacy, intriguing mystery and paradoxically also of calmness, despite using very saturated colours". Another space they created effects the senses in a similar way. Secret Garden is an interior of a shop adorned by soft, plant-like forms.
Bochen and Jelski explain why they use such a variety of forms and materials in their projects,
We’re constantly searching for new means of expression. Our workspace has an experimental character, we try to transgress clichés, we search for new solutions, techniques, materials in order to express the ideas we want to share with our audience.
In furniture making, the team collaborate with Italian and Polish companies. The sofa Crow, produced by the company Lounge, became highly popular in 2008. This piece is black and has an irregular geometric shape inspired by the spread wings of a flying crow. Crow is elegant and multi-functional – it can be split into two irregular modules. Yet some of the duo’s projects haven't attracted any investors at all. That was the fate that befell the electrically controlled system of ceiling-mounted compartments (2009), which was designed for small apartments.
Kosmos Project also takes part in artistic events, actively joining the realm of design with other disciplines. On the occasion of Maria Skłodowska-Curie’s birthday, in November 2011, they created an installation entitled Polonium that was inspired by the life of the Nobel Prize laureate, on the escarpment along the Vistula River in Warsaw. The work took the shape of a two-meter laboratory flask. The giant vessel was filled with huge balls symbolizing polonium, an element the scientist identified and named. At night, the installation shone with a fluorescent glow.
Kosmos Project’s accomplishments are already well known abroad, and the Polish designers have especially close ties with Italy. They gained experience working for renowned design firms in Milan as student, collaborating with famous designers including Alessandro Mendini and Denis Santachiara. The Polish duo exhibited work at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, at the DMY Festival in Berlin and at presentations from the Unpolished series.
Kosmos Project also travels to the 2013 edition of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, Europe's largest and most prestigious industrial design trade fair, where they present their work under the title The Collective Unconscious. Their exhibition is part of the special POLISH INNOVATION IN MILAN series produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institue.
What is the stuff of their dreams for the future? As they aver without hesitation, "We would like to exhibit in prestigious galleries, for instance in MoMA in New York or in Tate Modern in London".
Author: Paulina Kucharska, February 2013
The text quotes fragments of an interview given by Kosmos Project for Czas Na Wnętrze magazine (czasnawnetrze.pl).
- DOS - Disegnare Oggetti Sonori exhibition, Foyer Petrassi, Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome
- Common Roots Design Map of Central Europe exhibition, Design Museum, Holon, Israel
– Basic Life Functions exhibition, Arsenal Municipal Gallery, Poznań
- Unpolished: Pavilion d'Arsenal, Paris; Ventura Lambrate, Milan
- DizajnWawa_5 festival, Mokotowska Street, Warsaw
- Kreatimm – Design to Go exhibition, Budapest Design Week
- DMY fair, Berlin
- Przetwory 2010 showcase, Mińska 25, Warsaw
- Łódź Design Festival
- Łódź Design Festival
- Unpolished exhibition, Pierre Berge & Associes, Brussels
- Natural Resources of Polish Design, Regional Museum in Stalowa Wola
- Gdynia Design Days '09
- Salone del Mobile fair, Milan (particiaption in Salone satellite_09)
- Łódź Design Festival
- DMY fair, Berlin
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