Bartosz Mucha is a graphic designer and founder of the Poor Design brand. He was born in 1978 in Kraków.
He studied at the Faculty of Graphic Art of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, where in 2004 he acquired a diploma at Professor Piotr Kunce's poster design studio. Mucha lectures at the Faculty of Art at the Pedagogical University of Kraków. For the past few years he has been realizing his Poor Design project. He currently lives and works in Kraków.
Mucha is not a typical designer, as he pays little attention to the possibility of realizing and manufacturing his ideas. It is often impossible for some of his projects to be narrowed down to the conceptual layer. His works carry an existential message and a modern belief in the possibility of improving mankind's quality of life. This special feature articulates the social role of designing, especially of visionary designing. Mucha works on the border between art and design.
An expression which he likes to use is ‘functional fixation’, meaning ‘an inability to spot the new life of an object already paired with a particular aim in mind’. The artist goes against this functional fixation as well as stereotypes to propose seemingly uncommon uses for various items. Especially popular are his projects based on simple wooden clips which he changed into USB flash drives, lamps, butter knives and pencils (2008). His ideas go deeper – not limited to the items themselves but concerning the functioning of humans in the contemporary world. Additionally, the newly applied function is connected with entertainment and the artist's specific sense of humour.
In 2003 Bartosz Mucha created the Poor Design brand, which aims to popularise the use of easily available and cheap materials. All its products are designed and created independently by Mucha but sometimes the burden of assembling the already-prepared materials is placed on buyers’ shoulders. The items designed by Mucha are very easy to assemble, e.g. a ‘poor’ lamp made out of cardboard and tracing paper (Poor Lamp, 2004). One of his first projects was Duporet (2004), a simple chair to be assembled by the buyer (the set was a combination of five wooden elements, twelve screws, and a screwdriver). The project was later developed into Duporet Bujany (2008). In a different realization, he designed a black cube changed into a comfortable armchair when unzipped (Kostka Ludzika, 2005).
Using some Poor Design products may seem awkward, like for instance a dressing case which is a fold-out sleeping mat (Pracoholik, 2005) or slippers made of a piece of felt in the shape of a cross (2005). In line with the idea of withstanding the well-established patterns of functionality Mucha proposes alternative ways of using bicycle bells. Instead of a bell attached to handlebars, the artist brings it to one's wrist to use to clear a path on busy pavements. In a different project he changed the Polish emblem into an inflatable pillow which is helpful when one learns to swim (2006). For those troubled by nervousness, the artist developed packets of the antidepressant Nervofol, with fragments of bubble wrap (which is helpful in relieving stress) inside the packets.
For the Poor Design project Mucha created The POOR Light (2007) design, based on the profile of a lamp, which uses natural light (the shape of the lamp is cut from a black curtain) and the light emitted by electronic devices (a white lamp with a black screensaver on a computer).
The most radical of Poor Design's projects is Nic (2005). The artist developed a chair that does not need any raw materials – all we need to do is to lean our body against a wall in a particular way. Instead of a bed, Mucha recommends lying down on a clean floor or (in summer) on grass or a beach.
In 2009 Mucha pursued the 12% Normy project. He committed himself to designing one prototype each month for the whole year. The tasks he imposed upon himself were notably tough. He designed, for instance, a lamp starting from the question what it would be like if a whole lamp was a lightswitch. Common coathangers gained unusual shapes – of a pistol, an umbrella and leaking paint. An object that imitates two legs at a run may be used in a number of ways, including a hanger and a rack. However, as the designer claims, ‘its potential has not yet been recognized’. A (gold?) bar is also a broom and is thus symbolically degraded. An inflatable bear was changed into a beach ball by increasing the size of the toy’s head. The artist also suggested that he corrects the ongoing mistake of producing singular heads. The 12% Normy project was never fully finalized as the twelfth prototype was never created. Instead of it, Mucha showed a schematic drawing of a nuclear mushroom cloud, saying:
The presented eruption of a nuclear bomb symbolizes the moment when a project stands against its own designer. Some things should have never been invented.
In 2010, on commission from, the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków on the occasion of the Etnodizajn Festival, Mucha designed Taczkokołyska, which joined a traditional wooden cradle with a childish wheelbarrow.
Thanks to the combination, the wheelbarrow is more mobile and it is easier to change the location of lulling a child to sleep, which helps its occupant fall into slumber.
Mucha recently became engaged in para-architecture, meaning the problem of home, apartment, and rest. Similar to the 2% normy project, the artist decided to enforce on himself a particular system of work and starting from April 2010 he created one para-architectonic project a week. The results of his work were shown in the middle of 2011 at the Kordegarda Project in Warsaw. The exhibition was called 52 leniwe tygodnie: Paraarchitektura. Just as in the case of Poor Design, the artistic regime brought projects and prototypes from the border of art, design and architecture. Their common aim is bodily convenience and the relaxation of the soul. By analysing contemporary cities, Mucha draws the conclusion that their occupants need a place of seclusion and relaxation more than anything else. To achieve this aim he is not afraid to use already-existing objects, like noise barriers near highways, which he transforms freely. Many of his projects are shelters created in the most peculiar places, like for instance inside a table or inside a supermarket’s signboard. He also analyses rituals that divide time and space into home and work. Mucha shows that a home may be a trap for an artist, whereas a false sense of complacency may subjugate. Magda Kardasz, the curator of the exhibition writes:
A joke, an irony, playing with meanings – those are artist’s most favoured techniques. He is characterised by an interest in utopic thinking, a persistent seek for the ideal home, despite being conscious of ideal’s elusiveness.
A combination of jokes and a play with the meaning of functionality distinguishes his projects awarded at Lodz Design Festival.
The Poor Toys series was spotted in 2013 and represents a new way of thinking about toys that may serve both young and adult users. In the project Mucha used various banal objects of daily use, such as a bath plug, a floor brush and a laundry clip. In his interpretations those banal objects were turned into three types of toy cars with a dual functionality. As well as toys, they may be used as organizers (Peg Car), shoe brushes or even business card stands (Brush Car).
A similar play on the multifunctionality of the designed objects is present in the watch series Vice Clock, titled as one of the must-haves of 2015. Apart from showing time, those watches may also serve as organizers or nutcrackers.
- 2015 - Must have, Lodz Design Festival for clocks: Vice Clock 2 i Vice Nutcracker
2013 - Must have, Lodz design Festival for Poor Toy
Selected individual exhibitions:
- 2011 - 52 leniwe tygodnie. Paraarchitektura, Kordegarda Project , Warsaw
- 2010 - 12% normy, the Faculty of Industrial Design, Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw
- 2009 - 12% normy, BWA Design, Wrocław
- 2007 - Dizajnmuzeum 2. Oświecenie, F.A.I.T., Kraków
- 2006 - Dizajnmuseum, F.A.I.T., Kraków
- 2005 - Sześcian w zlewie, BB Gallery, Kraków; BB Gallery, Wrocław
Selected group exhibitions:
- 2015 - Jakarta, Polish Design. In the Middle of, Helsinki Design Week, Moderna. Industry + Handicraft, Designbock Festival, Praga, Polished Up
- 2014 - Cologne, Germany, Polished Up: design from Poland, Instanbul, Turkey, Polska in Between
- 2013 - DMY, Berlin, Germany, Łódź Design Festival, Łódź
- 2012 - Pop-Up. Design Between Dimensions, Musée de design et d’arts appliqués contemporains, Lozane, France, Unpolished 6, Milan, Italy
- 2011 - Zwykła rzecz, International Design Festival, DMY 2011, Berlin, Germany, Unpolished 6, Milan, Italy
- 2010 - Unpolished 5. Young Design from Poland, BC Design Center, Copenhagen, Denmark, Berek! Szukam!, Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Znaki Czasu, Toruń; Projekty wybrane, BWA, Zielona Góra; Polish! Folk, Belfast, Northern Ireland; Polish Design Expo, Expo, Shanghai, China; Etnodizajn Festiwal, Kraków; Ponderabilia, Poznań; Design Act Festival, Moscow, Russia; Łódź Design Festival, Łódź
- 2009 - Piekło rzeczy, Galeria Kronika, Bytom; Goodbye Design, Galeria Design, Wrocław; Made in Poland, Gliwice; Naturalne zasoby polskiego designu, Stalowa Wola; Science & Fiction, Galeria Zderzak, Kraków; Alfabet polski, BWA, Tarnów; Warszawa w budowie, Museum of Contemporary Art, Warsaw; Etnodizajn Festival, Kraków; Real World Laboratory, Museums Quartier, Vienna, Austria
- 2008 - Laboratoire du réel - Le design d’Europe Centrale, Saint-Étienne, France; International Design Biennale, Saint-Étienne, France; 10xPL. Jeune designers polonais, Marseille, France; Vienna Design Week, Vienna, Austria; Łódź Design Festival, Łódź; Heppen Transfer - Otwarcie!, Heppen Transfer Gallery, Warsaw
- 2007 - Mój świat. Nowa siła subiektywności, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Manual CC, Kronika Gallery, Bytom; Łódź Design Festival, Łódź
- 2006 - East Desires, Outpost Gallery & Church of St Simon and St Jude Norwich, Barwy klubowe, F.A.I.T., Kraków
- 2005 - Art Poznań 2005, Poznań
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, June 2011. Update, February 2016, AM, translated by Antoni Wiśniewski, April 2016