"ICONES, INDICES, SYMBOLES"
We've been invited last year to present our work during the Chaumont Poster Festival in June 2003. While visiting the city looking at the different possible venues where to hang the show, we literally were blown away by the magnificence of the 'chapelle des jesuites', an old convent chapel that has been de-holyfied and which is now used as an exhibition space.
It could sound weird to think of a graphic design exhibition in such a context. But as we're constantly trying to re-assess the gdecorativeh against the "objective", the baroque of the architecture seemed like a very natural context to us. To see how our images would confront such a space, how our signs would exists in a place originally devoted to devotion.
Quite naturally we thought of presenting there the complete series of posters we've designed for the Theatre de L'orient. Because these images are complex, intricate, full of symbolic or hidden meanings, with many prominent characters; maybe not so far from western religious paintings that once adorned this kind of building.
Of course the posters could not be just hung on the walls (as there wasn't any left empty). So we had to design some pieces of furniture to support them. Actually designing furniture is not so different from designing a typeface.
Most of our typeface designs take their roots in Bauhaus typeface construction. At the time they were trying to establish an international language erasing all kinds of subjective "handmarks" by the extensive use of rules and grids. Taking further this history of typeface design and knowing that today the more subjective you are the more you attract attention in media space, we tentatively broke the rigid rule of form following fonction by adding decorative elements, referring then to subjectivity, which is a matter of intuition and not only logic. The frames were just designed the same way, echoing some of the church's decorative patterns, and celebrating the complexity of the posters.
It's always nice to hear some music in a church. It resonates differently in this kind of place, and not only because of acoustics. As we had the chance to work with our favorite Icelandic pop singer Bjork, we thought it would be a nice complement to the posters to have her in there singing during the time of the exhibition. We consequently designed a "projection room" right in the center of the church, in which was projected the video that we once directed for her, entirely devoted to the contemplation of her face. "We'll be in a hidden place (Sanctuary)" were the lyrics that could be heard though the church.
But the projection room could not stay as a big white cube amongst the 16 gigantics poster stands. We covered it with our very own camouflage-like wallpaper posters, of which we had changed the colors according to the chapel designs. That's the 6th consecutive version of this wallpaper. It was originally designed as our own "world of signs", combining many bits and pieces we've done into a pattern, to be used as a background for one of our first posters exhibitions in Sweden some years ago. We don't really like empty white walls to present our posters, but prefer this way to give them a context. Since that whenever we're producing more of them we're changing the colors in a specific way.
The altar of the church seemed like the right place to present our books designs. We had previously done a video in which you could see someone's hands flipping through some of them, page after page. We covered there the floor with a fitted carpet that we had also previously designed for a cafe in Paris, decorated with a cryptic and non-readable font, and set a TV monitor on top in which you could see this long sequence of pages after pages.
Then we had to find a title for the show. Mathias had recently read about Charles Sanders Pierce, who was an American mathematician, philosopher, logician and a pioneer of semiotics. He developed in his writings a classification of signs as "icons, indices, symbols". It did make sense with what we were trying to achieve, so we simply quoted him, and wrote these three words all around the projection room on top of the wallpaper posters, using our 'Alphabet' posters, in which each letter is derived from an original photography done by our friends Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin. Letter were determined by the model's name. "A" is based on a girl named "Anne Catherine, "B" is Bridget, "C" is Carmen. Twenty six beautiful girls turned into twenty six alphabet letters.
As an uninhabited space will always stay a space with no depth, because completely empty from any kind of human activities ; we decided to display within the church some of our black metal lightboxes, gthe Agenth, a real living character as a representation of the human being and his complexity. "The Agent" has the simplicity and the mesmerizing power of a human face. It is our intelligent logotype, it has a complex history, and has been travelling freely in a lot of the images we've produced. Organized in swarn, they've been collecting a great number of histories through many strategic situations. They are now psychologically loaded.
Through their work in fashion, art and music, Michael Amzalag and Mathias Augustyniak of M/M (Paris) are among the most influential graphic designers and art directors in Europe. After meeting at an art school in Paris, Amzalag and Augustyniak co-founded M/M in 1992. From their Paris studio, they have forged longstanding collaborations with fashion designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga, the photographers Craig McDean and Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, the artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno, or more recently with Bjork for whom they have directed their first video ("Hidden Place", 2000), designed several albums and conceived her book. Since 2002 they've also been appointed as creative consultants and art directors for one of the world leadings fashion magazines, Vogue Paris.