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Rebels with a cause…? A product of their time, French studio 5.5 Designers advocate “the remedial treatment of objects.” Text by Agata Jaworska Edited by Kelly Rude December 2006 (unpublished) Reluctant to produce new forms, Vincent Baranger, Jean Sébastien Blanc, Anthony Lebossé and Claire Renard of the Parisian studio 5.5 Designers are exemplary of the zeitgeist in the confl uence of art and design, where making a statement is more important than an object’s function or materials. Driven by this alternative approach, already mainstream in the niche of the intellectual design world they inhabit, these youngstars (born in the early 80s and graduates of Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués et des Métiers d’Art in 2003), have in a very short time, amassed an impressive track record of projects. Upon graduation, in an installation entitled Hopital des Object, Rehab, their lime green prosthesis kit for repairing dilapidated found furniture, was put to the test in front of its fi rst audience at Galerie de la Salamandre in Nimes. Decked out in regulation medical wear, the designers performed the reparation of broken chairs with the addition of steel legs and strap-on seats. Workers|Designers, a porcelain project for the Nouvelle Biennale de Ceramique in Chateauroux in October 2005, was also exhibited at the Superstudio Piu during Milan’s Salone del Mobile in April 2006 where it clearly stole the show. This 5.5 project was a social and industrial intervention with Bernardaud, the esteemed manufacturer in the French porcelain capital of Limogues. Instead of approaching the company with a new design for a plate or teacup in the hope that they might be mass produced, the designers imagined, instead, a new relationship between themselves and the production line workers. “Creative disturbances” involving the suspension of certain rules of Bernardaud’s refi ned assembly line production were introduced. At various times of the year, workers were at liberty to disrupt the production process (as directed by 5.5), with the results as

novel as the handle of a cup ending up inside instead of on the side and other irregular “gestures”. Rules governing the application of a classic plate decal were also broken, with it appearing off-centre, on a plate’s underside, or torn up in pieces and reassembled. And as an explicit reaction to Bernardaud’s strict quality control measures, 5.5 exploited manufacturing defects, appropriating production fl aws such as captured air bubbles and loose, dried porcelain fl ake remains as “found textures” in a whimsical yet elegant series of white salad bowls. A production by-product, the shaved remains of a turned bowl became spaghetti-like material molded into the shape of yet another bowl, producing a far-from smooth surface with a vulnerable, frayed rim. In addition to the project’s process based anti-aesthetic aesthetic, there are also some valuable social conditions at play here as well. The designers ived up to the spirit of the time, with the workers’ signatures democratically appearing on the undersides together with those of 5.5 and Bernardaud. And another compelling argument is that the designers stopped time, affording the workers a break from the assembly line (albeit for a limited time) to capitalize on their knowledgebased creativity. However, if these fetishized irregularities prove to be a hit with collectors, these rarifi ed objects could suddenly become mass-produced and the argument spins back on itself. Yet both the words creative and disturbances are seductive enough to spark interest and keep the designers in front of the press and potential new clients.

Rebels with a cause...?  

Rebels with a cause…? A product of their time, French studio 5.5 Designers advocate “the remedial treatment of objects.” Text by Agata Jawo...

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