The Green, The Mystic, The Contemporary: Collective Unconscious
small, The Green, The Mystic, The Contemporary: Collective Unconscious, Kosmos Project, "The Heart", 2008, wine decanter, kosmos project 1_6850923.jpg
The young and acclaimed design duo, Kosmos Project, have been invited to create a special showcase of Polish design during the annual Stockholm Design Week. Kosmos have collaborated with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in creating a special exhibit that takes viewers on a journey into the collective unconscious of Poles.
This initiative marks yet another occasion wherein Ewa Bochen and Maciej Jelski explore myths, fantasies and rituals rooted in the historic past of Poland and pertinent to its changing present. The designers explore this treasure trove giving their discovered artefacts new life, frequently with a tongue-in-cheek attitude and a playful stance.
Their Collective Unconscious is an exhibition of contemporary design. The project was previously featured at the 2013 edition of the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan, Europe's largest and most prestigious industrial design trade fair. There, Collective Unconscious was part of the special POLISH INNOVATION IN MILAN series produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institue. The title of the endevour refers to that part of the human psyche that gets formed under the influence of experiences repeated across generations. In Stockholm, the project is part of the Furniture and Light Fair of the Design Week, where it will be presented in the Greenhouse section.
Kosmos Project drew inspiration for this exhibit from the old heritage of Poland. It is a heritage that the authors feel is getting largely forgotten, and one that remains somehow in our unconscious in a way that is more intuitive rather than recognised. Hence the artists’ attempt at a recognition of this national heritage and their own roots. The designers' vision is also evocative of the dream to reunite with nature, and to reflect the changing surroundings and seasons of the year. Kosmos decided to concentrate on the most characteristic pagan rituals of the Slavic tradition, namely the Noc Kupały (Kupała’s Night) and Dziady – translated into English as the Forefather’s Eve ever since Adam Mickiewicz’s iconic Romantic drama. The two designers seeked to evoke the atmosphere, energy and incredible power of ritual in the objects they created. Kosmos Project thus add to the recurring trend of evoking old pagan heritage, that spans across various genres, often in very contrasting ways. To find out more about a nostalgia for the Slavic in music, see Filip Lech's article for culture.pl, Slavs Are Us (?)…
The items they designed are made either entirely or partially out of steel. This is the case with their masks, a table with a bio-fire place, a chandelier and candleholders. There are also object made with traditional materials, such as a woolen kilim, wicker stools, straw vases and their famous glass wine canter, called The Heart.
The designers who are also curators of their own exhibit comment in a note about the show:
The collective unconscious has been shaped throughout the evolution of mankind, under the influence of experiences repeated in many generations. Inherited from the ancestors in the form of an instinctual and archetypal unconscious, it expresses itself in myths, art, religious ceremony, customs, dreams and also in liminal experiences, such as mystic states and paranormal activities. It is a phenomenon shared by all cultures, but in spite of the repetitive archetypes, in different countries and in different cultures, every nation has its own, particular character. And it is to the Polish particularity that we devoted our project.
A different occasion wherein Bochen and Jelski drew on collectively referred to symbols was their much commented design of a Radio (2009). The titulary item is a receiver in the shape of a wooden cross that is turned on with a handclap. 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."
contemporary polish designers
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They've also designed a hair comb resembling a knuckle-duster. Here, the juxtaposition of the feminine beauty utensil with a somewhat punky artefact proved not only thought-provocative but also right in line with the evolving liberated notions of femininity.
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, which is featured at the Collective Unconscious exhibit is made from laboratory glass shaped as the title suggests. Wine inside the vessel brings blood to mind, and the heart is also where emotions are said to dwell… In the Jungian set-up of the exhibit, the decanter may also be considered an alchemic vessel. Yet, as an object, it also retains its practicality, with a comfortable grip and a special cleaning brush included in the box.
The project Love refers to a similar aesthetic. It is a gigantic black latex heart which was 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.
In 2013, Bochen and Jelski’s studio was nominated for the DesignAlive award in the Creator of the Year category. The items from the Collective Unconscious series were presented with the Must Have From Poland 2013 title. Some of the other prizes garnered by Kosmos Project include the 1st prize in the Suite d’Autore contest in Palermo, the 2nd place in the World Space Creators Award in Tokyo, a special mention in the Beyond Silver Macef & Designboom competition in Milan. Kosmos have shown their work at Milan’s Salone del Mobile, at the DMY Berlin, at the Łódź Design Festival, Tent London, as well as the 2009 Gdynia Design Days.
Sylwia Wysłowska, translated with edits and adapted by Paulina Schlosser, 27.01.2014
Source: own materials, press release.