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At Random: Chen & Williams

Jun 29, 2018

As part of our series on the artists and designers behind Spazio Nobile’s The Random Collection, we asked Chen Chen and Kai Williams about their thoughts on collecting the unique

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Text by Noëlle Gardener

How does the fact that these pieces are unique in a series impact your work?
We work in multiple aspects of design: we produce things with factories that are cast in the thousands and we also hand make unique objects. The Caviar Sconces are a combination of both. There is a mould that makes the back side of each sconce exactly the same, and then the top surface, because of the process, is totally unique.

How do you think design is evolving nowadays towards the field of contemporary art?
The distribution system is evolving towards the field of contemporary art. What we think of as “Design” is modernism; decorative object-making has been around for much longer.

How are both interacting?
The breaking of the barrier is about the right to distribute. It’s like how in the 80s, hip hop wasn’t considered pop music and now it has become the dominant form of pop music.

Why do we have those two words, fine arts versus visual arts, that have been separated? Do you think they should be interacting more?
Fine art is an honorific… it’s a status that is bestowed on an object. It has nothing to do with the object itself —it has to do with the relationship the object has with the art world.

Is functionality an important consideration in your process?
Yes, absolutely —it’s the basic metric that we measure everything by. We don’t consider ourselves artists because we don’t deal with metaphysics. We deal with concrete, corporeal issues.

How do you perceive your work both as part of The Random Collection and as part of your overall production?
The Caviar Sconces are really emblematic of our thinking. There is one part that is totally created by chance and we are designing it as a process, thinking about it as how natural things are formed where you have simple starting parameters but randomly complex forms are generated. The other parts are all tightly manufactured —for example, the lens is UV bonded seamlessly to the aluminium and the curvature of the glass obscures the LED ring. It’s the combination of the two, loose and tight —when we can accomplish both, it’s really special.

Chen & Williams’ Caviar Sconces are part of The Random Collection, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of TL Magazine. Launched at Art Brussels (19-22 April), it is always available at the Spazio Nobile Gallery in Brussels and will be at an upcoming exhibition at the Biennale Interieur in Kortrijk from October 18-22.

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