Pablo Bras, Juliette Gelli and Romain Guillet: France's representatives at the Triennale Milano
Alongside Juliette Gelli and Romain Guillet, Pablo Bras has designed the exhibition Situations, stratégies pour habiter l’instable, phénomènes, évènements, coïncidences. With the support of the Institut français, It is France's contribution to the 23rd exhibition of decorative arts and modern architecture at the Triennale Milano (15 July - 11 December 2022).
Updated on 01/09/2022
Could you briefly tell us about your background?
Pablo Bras: I am a designer working in the fileld known as research practice, in the sense that I don't necessarily produce functional objects, but I try to reformulate questions that I feel have been wrongly asked. I work with objects, images, spaces and texts mainly for public institutions and museums. I learned carpentry in Mexico, then trained at Boulle and at ENSCI-Les Ateliers.
For this project, you have chosen to work with Juliette Gelli and Romain Guillet.
Pablo Bras: Juliette Gelli's practice focuses on concert scenography and artistic direction. She designs total and dynamic experiences, alongside artists such as Flavien Berger, Oklou or Maud Geffray. At the moment, she is also working on the way in which signs of interaction between matter and phenomena emerge, which has enabled her to develop typographies. As for Romain, he is a designer and scenographer. He founded Confort Mental, an exhibition and production space that blurs the lines between so-called functional and non-functional objects. I asked him to be part of this project because of the work he did for the Centre Pompidou, designing the studio 13/16, which now hosts workshops for young people. It is a highly composite project, based on standard elements that have been only lightly transformed. For me, it speaks of reversibility, combinations and assemblies, which were the main principles I wanted to inject into this exhibition.
The theme for this edition, set by astrophysicist Ersilia Vaudo, is "Unknown unknowns. An introduction to the mysteries". How did you decide to interpret it?
Pablo Bras: On reading Ersilia Vaudo's note of intent I was conflicted. There is a call for humility, which I agree with, in the invitation to consider the unknown and what we do not know. But on the other hand, she believes that it is by exploring the distant that we can take measure of this ignorance. Even if its aim remains to show us the unknown, there is still a very science based and, ultimately, technophile response in this quest for the microscopic and the macroscopic. For what her note implies is that it is through the development of tools, observation techniques or samples that we observe these unknown unknowns. But it seems to me that this ignorance is also manifest at much more trivial levels of our existence. How do objects emerge, how could they, or how should they be made? In what quantity? By whom or by what? What does this imply for the use of physics and materials?
The exhibition you are presenting is entitled Situations, stratégies pour habiter l’instable, phénomènes, évènements, coïncidences. What form does it take on site?
Pablo Bras: It is a large room whose floor has been covered with clay bricks, compressed and arranged in an orthogonal manner. These are bricks that we produced in Milan and which have a fairly warm colour. In some places, the bricks have been removed to form small structures to house and display objects. Some of them are unique pieces, others are from small series, while others are mass produced. When you enter this space, all of your senses are stimulated, because some of the exhibits are actually living things. There is kefir, cheese and a lemon tree. So much so that a peculiar smell inhabits the space.
Juliette Gelli, Romain Guillet and you are part of a new generation of designers and your exhibition was designed with a controlled environmental impact in mind. How did this influence the curation of your exhibition, the choice of objects, their provenance, etc?
Pablo Bras: At the beginning of the exhibition, I spoke with Victor Petit, a philosopher who works a lot on political ecologies and who expressed the idea that what we know least is often what is closest to us. Now if we push this idea to the limit, what always goes unnoticed in an exhibition - be it art or design - is the exhibition space itself. The walls, the floor, the furniture, the television, the speaker, the paint, the inks... in short the container. We are so absorbed by what the supports say (the content) that we no longer pay attention to the supports themselves and forget that they are, above all, objects. And yet they are not neutral in terms of their origin and production. The objects selected therefore stem from this desire to look at the objects that "are there".
In your opinion, is it possible to move away from the industrial dynamic that has long been dominant in the field of design? What other major challenges do you think designers are facing today?
Pablo Bras: In fact, I don't think there is really any truth behind the categories of industry and - its theoretical complement - craft. One of the things the exhibition tries to show is that there are only hybrid forms of production. Some processes that we might think of as industrial are sometimes craft, or even DIY. And sometimes we tinker with so-called industrial elements, or we produce on a craft scale from industrial processes... On the other hand, there is a difference in the scales of production. There is still mass production, one-off productions, and in between there is a whole range of different scales. There are forms and uses that can only exist through mass production, and others that cannot. The challenge for designers is to be more flexible and to admit that some things no longer need to be produced, others need to be produced in small quantities and others, no doubt, in large quantities. In order to do this, we must no longer observe objects in isolation, as we have been taught to do, but rather the relationships that are formed between objects that have already been produced and those that are yet to be produced. To observe that, sometimes, you simply have to arrange what exists.
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