APPLICATIONS: ART OR DESIGN?
Under the label 'design', we can subsume all kinds of transformations of nature in view of human needs: gastronomy,
furniture, interiors and architecture, cars, airplanes, yachts
and machines, and what have you. There is no doubt that we are dealing
here with creations, but not every creation is art. Designers do not
disclose an imaginary world, they add real products to the real world
(Quoted from 'Mimesis and Art')
Below you will find applications to the art theory of Stefan Beyst
Ever more examples will be added until there is a complete overview of
the most important forms of design that pose for art.
If you want to be notified of new additions, just
with the mention 'applications'.
De Cock De Cupere
Eliasson Flavin Gabo
Höller Judd Klein LeWitt
Malstaf Man Ray
Turrell Van Dijck Vermeersch
VLADIMIR TATLIN (° 1885-1953)
Initially an icon painter, after a travel to Paris in 1993, where
he had seen the models for Picasso's cubist paintings, Tatlin made his
marvellous Constructivist 'pictorial relief's', 'corner relief's' and 'counter-relief's'
in order to question the traditional idea of painting. In fact, these
counterbluffs are no longer (abstract) art at all, they are real
objects: design. For the same reason, his daring 'Model of the Monument
to the Third International' (1920) is not a sculpture, but spatial
design (architecture). That goes, evidently, also for his design clothes,
furniture, his 'Letting', a flying machine for by one person, and so on.
NAOMI GABO (1890-1977)
In 1915, Naomi Gabo made some very interesting sculptures, only to
mention the masterly ''Constructive
Head Nr. 2", as it were the negative of the sculptures of Brancusi. A
remarkable feat: sculpture of the void.
After the Russian Revolution, he severed all bonds with figuration -
mimesis - and resorted to geometric forms that do no longer imitate
something. The concept of a sculpture without surface and volume is transferred to objects built up with pure lines and
transparent surfaces. Although this concept has been conceived as a step
in the development of sculpture, Naomi Gabo's objects have no longer
anything to do with sculpture. That does not prevent them from
being outstanding creations in the domain of design.
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Alexander Calder began his career
as a sculptor. In the course of the
thirties, under the influence of Mondrian and Miro, he switched to
making moving objects, called 'mobiles' by Marcel Duchamp. These mobiles
'kinetic sculptures', but design, comparable with other moving
MAN RAY (1890-1876)
Man Ray made some striking examples of 'humoristic design': think
of his iron with nails, or his metronome with an eye. No trace of
mimesis in these creations - apart from the eye that is a photo, but is
merely a part of a non-mimetic whole. However witty or mysterious, these
objects do not conjure up something else, they just
coincide with themselves. Other objects of Man Ray belong to the 'object
SALVADOR DALI (1904-1989)
In 1924, André Breton conceives the idea of the 'object
A good example is Salvador Dali's 'telephone hoard',
where the horn of the telephone has been replaced with a cooked lobster.
MERIT OPPENHEIM (1913-1885)
In the tradition of the 'object surrealist' Merit Oppenheim made
'Deepener en furore' (1936).
We are not dealing here with three-dimensional mimesis, but with design,
functional, but surrealistic design. Other works of Merit
Oppenheim are genuine mimetic objects: see 'Ma gouvernante'.
VICTOR BRUNER (1903-1966)
Equally in the tradition of the 'object surrealist' is the table with
the head and the tail of a fox by
Victor Bruner made in 1939-1947.
The move towards design receives a new impulse when the
idea of painting as mimesis is increasingly questioned toward the end of
The canvas is reduced to a mere two-dimensional plane,
and sculpture to a
mere three dimensional
form that coincides with itself. One of the earliest
representatives of three-dimensional 'minimalism' is Carl André, who,
from his 'Cedar Piece' onwards,
makes ever new combinations of squares and cubes in ever new materials. In spite of the
titles, these compositions are nothing more than themselves. No sculpture hence,
unlike the works of Brancusi
of which Carl André understands himself as
a heir, but fascinating design...
DAN FLAVIN (°1933)
Dan Flaying poses as a minimalist sculptor. Ever since 1963, he
works with coloured neon tubes. Sometimes, that results in beautiful
three-dimensional light objects: decorative objects, no longer in solid
materials, but in immaterial light - newer versions of the older lamps
with candles or light bulbs. In other cases, that results in beautiful
light effects: walls no longer decorated with paint, but with coloured
light - a modern versions of the Abetted', like the Richmond Hall (1996).
No doubt, this creations are 'minimalist'. But why not just speak of
minimalist design? Why does Dan Flavin not just call himself a light
designer? Why pose as an artist - worse still: as a sculptor?
DONALD JUDD (1928-1994)
The very paradigm of minimalist designis Donald Judd.
From 1966 onwards, he makes cubes in diverse sizes, combinations and
materials. Three-dimensional cubes are just cubes, unlike
Brancusis's 'eggs' that are in
fact 'heads'. Nevertheless, Donald Judd continues to
sell himself as a sculptor. An exhaustive analysis of his work is to be
found on 'Donald
SOL LEWITT (°1928)
Sol LeWitt is renown as a conceptual artist. From the middle of
the sixties onwards, he writes a kind of scores for the execution of his
'Wall Drawings' that have to be executed by others. The 'Wall drawings'
as such, just like the constructions with cubes, are just beautiful
geometric designs in two or three dimensions. They do not imitate
anything else, but coincide with themselves. No mimesis hence - not
painting nor sculpture - but design.
RICHARD SERRA (°1939)
From the sixties onwards, Richard Serra makes minimalist constructions
from large rolls and sheets of metal with a patina of rust. Although
often very impressive and of a breathtaking beauty, his creations have
nothing to do with sculpture: there is no hint of
mimesis in these objects. We are simply dealing with spatial design.
YVES KLEIN (1928-1962)
Yves Klein made furore in the end of the fifties with his 'antropométries'.
Here, we are dealing in the first place with his monochrome paintings,
made in 'Yves Klein Blue' from 1959 onwards. This is pure colour that
does not evoke something other than itself. Not mimesis, hence, but
design. That is all the more apparent, since Yves Klein soon proceeds to
make decorative panels with blues sponges, and also three-dimensional
sponges freed from the canvas in three-dimensional space: no longer a
relief or a sculpture, but mere design. Also the 'fire sculptures' of
Yves Klein are not sculptures, but the counterparts of fountains with
water, and otherwise not so different from firework. Also design, hence...
PIERO MANZONI (1933-1963)
1957, Piero Manzoni became famous with his 'achromes': 'paintings' with
cloth impregnated with kaolin, inspired by Yves Klein's blue monochromes.
We are dealing here with design on the two-dimensional plane: no trace of
mimesis. The move from imitation to reality is completed when Manzoni,
from 1961 onwards,
uses bread, fibreglass and cotton. The hesitating two-dimensional design is here completed in full
three-dimensional design, like with Donald Judd.
The other works of Piero Manzoni are dealt with in the section 'Art
and statement about art'.
Initially, Tinguely made all kinds of machines performing
vain, useless actions. Although they often seem
does not turn them into imitations of some living being. They belong to
the world of design, just like Calder's mobiles,
or fountains - in fact,
the most famous of his machines are the fountains at Beaubourg.
In his more spectacular works, Tinguely lent his machines a more
critical content: they
destroyed themselves, like in his 'Homage to New York'
(1960). In other variants,
Tinguely had his machines produce ''action painting'. In that case, we
are dealing with design of non-verbal signs that make statements about
art. Only in
some of his later works are his machines transformed into
moving sculptures. Suffices it to refer to his 'Witches' (1985):
draped with cloth and provided withsnapping skulls. Tinguely is
active on three domains, hence: non-verbal statements, design, and
Arman is renown for his 'accumulations', which
are no more than displayed objects
(''objet exposé"). At
times these objects develop into playful design, as when he uses split
violins to support a table (1983) or when he designs a chair with the
parts of a cello (1993). Such design is even less sculpture than his
Panamarenko is renown for his playful and poetic machines.
For some of them, Panamarenko makes two-dimensional or three-dimensional
drafts. These are instrumental imitations which, however,are not appreciated as imitations, since we look through them at the
real machine to which they refer as a sign.
When the designs are
executed, we are dealing with real objects, not with imitations. With
design, hence. That is most apparent from the performances where
Panamarenko is about to lift up in the air with his wings, like da
Panamarenko has other things to do than moving around with his designs
for the rest of his life. That is why he prefers to have them displayed
by a mannequin. The mannequin may be compared to a kind of pedestal, but
that turns what is displayed by it not into a sculpture: also cars are
sometimes displayed on a pedestal. Things are different when the pilot
is imitated. In that case, we are dealing with an imitation that is combined with
real, non-imitated props - as when a polyester mannequin is draped in
real clothes. No doubt, this is art, but of the same elementary level as that of 'Searching for Utopia' and 'Man
who measures the clouds' of Jan Fabre: we have the feeling of
finding ourselves in a shop for model making rather
than in a museum.
But Panamarenko is at his
best when he leaves his machines unmanned - and thus releases his design
from contamination with poor imitations. Only now do you get the impression
that you can step into his planes like in your dream car on the car
exhibition. And that goes especially for his marvellous zeppelin.
Panamarenko's creations are design, not art. They would only be
sculptures when we got the impression of seeing something else as what
is really there, as when we read Picasso's saddle and handlebars of a
bicycle as the head of a bull.
But there is no such metamorphosis in any of Panamarenko's creations:
however poetic, the objects merely coincide with themselves. Design,
hence. Not 'functional' design, to be sure, but also decorative vases and
many clothes are totally non-functional. Many an object has no other
function than to be beautiful, or to be funny (like a spring that
pops-up like a jack-in-the-box) or to be poetic - like Panamarenko's designs. That they make you fantasize does not turn them into
art: also dream cars or weddings dresses have the same effect.
Although Panamarenko's creations are not artworks, they are very
interesting - anti-functional - design, and as such the complete
opposite of another designer that poses as a sculptor Donald Judd.
CHRIS BURDEN (°1946)
Chris Burden is famed for his
personal danger. In the late seventies, Chris Burden's interest
shifts to objects (see Chris Burden design). In 1975 he engineered a
utopian car lightweight four-wheeled 'B-car'
"able to travel 100 miles per hour and achieve 100 miles per gallon".
'When Robots Rule: The Two Minute Airplane Factory' (1977) consists of
an assembly line which manufactures rubber-band-powered model aeroplanes
from tissue paper, plastic and balsa wood, culminating in the launch of
the planes. Since 1997, he constructs bridges with Meccano and Erector
Set (The Mexican Bridge, 1998). In 1983 he conceived his 'Speed
of Light Machine'
with which to "see" the speed of light.
In 2005 he launched a
self-navigating yacht with a grant from the UK arts council.
Despite the funding through the Arts Council, it is obvious that we are
not dealing here with art, but with (of course: non-functional) design.
ANDREA ZITTEL (°1965)
Andrea Zittel designs her own clothes, diets,multi-purpose
furniture and vehicles. Under the guise of 'transforming life into art',
her designs are exhibited in galleries and musea as 'conceptual art'
that is supposed to make us reflect on our 'fundamental human condition'.
Interesting or not, this 'investigation of the structures of life on
every level' has nothing to do with art: it is a mere variant of design.
CHRISTO JAVACHEFF (°1935)
Christo began his career in 1958 with
wrapping objects under the auguries of Pierre Restany's 'Nouveau
Réalisme'. He gradually proceeds to large scale projects by wrapping up
entire landscapes and buildings, and finally replaces the wrapping with
direct spatial design: think of the magnificent 'Running fence' in 1972,
'Surrounded Islands' van 1983, 'Umbrella' in Japan and California 1980,
and 'The Gates' 2005 in New York. This is no longer displayed reality, but spatial design.
From the sixties onward, new forms of design are referred to as
'land art' of 'environmental art'. A very popular example is Andy
Goldsworthy, who usually is called an 'environmental sculptor',
although there is no trace of mimesis in his work. A comprehensive
analysis of his beautiful creations is to be found in 'Andy
Goldsworthy: the beauty of creation'
ROBERT SMITHSON (1938-1973)
In the sixties Robert Smithson made minimal sculptures. From 1967
he proceeds to interventions in the natural environment under the
auguries of 'Land Art' or Earth Art'. Very famous is his 'Spiral Jetty' (1970).
No doubt, that is a 'minimal' creation, but not art: just landscape
design, albeit not with the vegetative world like in parks, but with the
mineral world of stone.
JAN FABRE (°1958)
Jan Fabre poses as a 'uomo universale'. As such he made works like 'Tivoli' (1991):
a villa wrapped in ball-pointed paper and 'Heaven of Delight', the
ceiling of the Royal Palace in Brussels, covered with millions of beetles.
Both creations, however splendid, have nothing to do with art - let
alone with the Sistine Chapel or the 'Heaven of Delight' of Hieronymus Bosch:
they are just forms of spatial design.
See our analysis of Heaven of Delight'
and our 'Fabre files'.
HENCK VAN DIJCK
Some examples of the playful design of
Henck van Dijck:
ANDREAS SLOMINSKY (°1959)
From 1984 onwards, Andreas Slominsky makes ever new variants of 'traps'
for a whole array of animals (see:
slideshow). Of course, these traps are not meant to
really catch animals, not otherwise than
Panamarenko's designs, which are not meant to fly. Needless to say
that this is not sculpture - there is no trace of
mimesis here - but humoristic design. That goes also for a 'found
object' like 'Stolen bicycle pump'' (1998) where the pump is removed
from the bicycle by cutting the frame.
Other creations of Andreas Slominsky are
NANCY RUBINS (°1952)
From the eighties onward, Nancy Rubins makes assemblages with (parts of)
diverse machines. Nancy Rubins knows to combine these parts in often
impressive organic wholes. But that does not transform her assemblages
into sculptures: we never have the impression that the industrial
materials are transformed in some other substance, like is the case with
the marble of a sculpture that is transformed into the flesh of a body.
We rather can compare these assemblages with the 'assemblage' of flowers,
which are equally often arranged into new organic wholes. No doubt very
impressive creations, then - but not art (or sculpture), but reality.
However, just like many a bouquet, Nancy Rubins' assemblages - or:
bouqets of industrial parts - often
transcend the level of mere displayed reality, precisely because an
often impressive composition is added to the 'found object'. That is why
we are dealing here with design, although not the more familiar
geometric design, like Donald Judd's, but the good old organic design of
flower pieces, fruit bowels or gastronomic dishes.
LAWRENCE MALSTAF (°1972)
A first series of installations of
Lawrence Malstaf consists of
Other works of Lawrence Malstaf belong to spatial design.
In “Nemo Observatorium” (2002) the visitor is seated in a huge transparent
Pushing a button creates a whirlwind of polystyrene pellets:
The intention is that we get the feeling of
being in the middle of a snow storm.
In reality, the polystyrene pellets do not give such impression. We
rather find ourselves in a vertiginous environment: a special form of
And that goes also for Nevel (2006), a moving labyrinth with9 programmed
panels that can move 360°:
The visitors are enclosed or set free
according to the movement of the panels. Moving architecture, hence:
spatial design, a technological version of the good old labyrinth or the
In still other works Lawrence Malstaf is making
JAMES TURRELL (°1943)
Became renown for his 'Skypaces' (see:
displayed reality). Other works of
James Turrel are colour, light and space installations. Already in 1967
he projected three-dimensional light forms onto the walls of the
Pasadena Art Museum. In 2006, he created his successful 'Ganzfeld: Tight
End' for Yorkshire Sculpture Park: an entire space enveloped in a blue
radiance. These installations are not 'sculpture', but a variant of
spatial design (like Dan Flavin and
OLAFUR ELIASSON (°1967 Copenhagen)
“I make art that creates an experience,
not a representation,”
In a first series of installations, Olafur Eliasion works with light.
In 'Beauty' (1993) he plays with the projection on the wall of light
from a Fresnel lamp reflected on the surface of water. A similar
installation is 'Notion motion' (2005) where the light of HMI spotlights
on water is reflected on a wall. In 'Your strange
certainty still kept' (1996), drops of water illuminated by strobe lights, appear to remain suspended in the air.
In nearly related works, the focus is rather on the environment. In The
Curious Garden' (1997), a room is bathed in a single wavelength of
yellow light, so that the viewers’ vision is reduced to a duotone scale
ranging from yellow to black. In 'Room for all colours' (1999), light
from a grid of lamps is mixed and diffused by a floor-to-ceiling
translucent screen in a gradual, chromatic progression. In '360° room
for all colours' the same technology is used to envelope viewers within
a cylinder of morphing spectral hues. In 'Your Blue Afterimage Exposed'(2000),
Eliasson exploits the effect of afterimages.
In 'The Weather Project' (2003), the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern was illuminated with a semi-circular disc made up of hundreds of
mono-frequency lamps. The ceiling was covered with a huge mirror.
Humidifiers created a fine mist in the air. The whole looked like a sun in the sky.
In 'Your Black Horizon' (2006) in a temporary pavilion on the island of San
Lazzaro near Venice, Eliasson illuminated a square room painted
black with a thin, continuous line of light set into all four
walls of the room at the viewers eye-level. In 'Your Colour Memory' (2004)
he experiments with afterimages of a continually changing spectrum of
tinted light. In 'Round Rainbow' (2005) and 'Colour Space Embracer' (2005),
he resumes his exploration of moving light reflections: this time, light
is beamed through spinning acrylic rings that refract wildly geometric
imagery throughout the room. For the SFMoMA exhibition, Olafur Eliasson
constructed a kaleidoscopic 'One-way colour tunnel' (2007) including a walk-through
tunnel structure. In 'Yellow Fog', first shown in New York at The Jewish
Museum in 1998,
now permanently at the Verbund building in Vienna, fog rises up the 48
meters long façade in yellow light after dusk begins to fall.
Despite the references to Turner and Caspar David Friedrich, or the
comparison of the 'Weather project' with the Sistine Chapel - these creations have nothing to do with painting or sculpture: there are only
hints of mimesis in
''Your Black Horizon'
and ''The Weather Project'. We are dealing
with (free) spatial design - or in the case of 'The Weather Project'
with a high-tec cathedral - in the vein of
James Turrell and Pieter
Vermeersch. That is also the case in works in which light plays only
a secondary role like in 'the New York City Waterfalls', four giant waterfalls, including one
falling from the famed Brooklyn Bridge, erected in New York for three
months in 2008, and in 'The Parliament of Reality', commissioned
for the Bard College campus in upstate New York (2008), consisting of a
circular pond approximately 135 feet in diameter surrounded by a ring of
24 planted trees, with a circular island nested in the centre.
In other works, Olafur
Eliasson focuses on interventions in natural or artificial spaces. His
'Green River project' (1998-1999)
involves dyeing a river green (Los Angeles,Stockholm,
Bremen, Tokyo) think of Christo). In his 'Double Sunset'
(1999) an oval-shaped sun, a canvas lit from behind, overlooks the
skyline of Utrecht. In 'Your natural denudation
inverted' (1999) a pond in a museum touches the windows so that
people on the other side of the window could almost step into it.
Works like the BMW racing car belong to the category of 'displayed
PIETER VERMEERSCH (°1970)
'What you see is what you see'
It is just paint'
Ever since 'Off the Hook' (2000),
Pieter Vermeersch has
exchanged the canvas for real space. It does not suffice, however, to
use colour - regardless of the support - to make paintings. 'Painting 01, 02 en 02 van 2003'
are no more than coloured surfaces that coincide with themselves, not
otherwise than Yves Klein's monochromes
or the canvases of the colorfield painters. Design hence, not art. And that
goes also when such a canvas is combined with a painted wall - and hence
also with an equally real three-dimensional space, as in 'Wall Painting and Canvas' (Smak
2003). In projects like 'Storage and Display' (Mexico City 2003), it is
coloured windows that paint the walls. And that goes also for the
installation in the Stuk in Louvain (2006). Magnificent -but
spatial design, not 'new painting'. It is sheer rhetoric to elevate these works
to paintings under the mere pretext that the world is here transformed
into a canvas and that the light has become the painter's brush.
(Wolfgang) WINTER (° 1960) /Bertolt)
HOERBELT (° 1958)
From the end of the nineties,
Winter/Hörbelt became famous
with ''Crate Hauses' like Casa Blanca (1999),
(2003), Craddle (2004), Kastenhaus
(2005) and with works like 'Light Bench' (2005), Depots (Ring)
(2000-2004), Schaukel (2004), funiture, also made of bottle crates.
These creations are sold and exhibited as 'public sculpture' . It is
evident, however, that we are not dealing here with sculpture, but with
spatial design and furniture design.
CARSTEN HÖLLER (°1961)
From the nineties onward,
Carsten Höller exhibits all kinds of 'sculptural installations' in
diverse museums and galleries all around the world: Myself-Oneself
(1997), Ball-House (1999), Frisbeehouse (2000), Carousel (1999-2000),
'Mushroom Room' (2000), Light Corner (2001), Kommunehaus (2001), Neon Circle (2001), Pink Sphere
(2001), Solandra Greenhouse (2004), 'Mirror Carousel' (2005), 'Test Site.
Unilever Series' consisting of 5 slides in the Tate
Modern (2006) (see:
Rupert Beagle blogspot), Light Wall (2007), "Merry go round" in
Villa Manin (2007.
We are told that Höller is making 'impressive sculptures' or 'sculptural
installations'. Apart from the fact that they are three-dimensional,
these creations have nothing to do with art: it is sheer ('f'ree' or
'fine') spatial design (including light-effects and sometimes scents).
These things belong on the fairground, where, by the way, far more
interesting 'spatial ad perceptual experiences' can be enjoyed. Vicente Todolí,
Director of Tate Modern, said: '
Carsten Höller involves his audience
in explorations intended to generate visual events and stimulate
feelings and thoughts to bring about shared experiences
'. But, as
fairgrounds and amusement parks clearly demonstrate, that does not
suffice to make art....
JAN DE COCK
From 2004 onward, we are witnessing the unstoppable advent of Jan de
Cock's ' ‘Denkmäler’: ‘Denkmal 1a’ in Cologne (2004), ‘Denkmal 2
Ondartxo’ (2004), ‘Denkmal 3’ in the Kerstin Engholm Gallery in Vienna
(2003), ‘Denkmal 7’ in the Schirn Kunsthalle te Frankfurt (2005),
‘Denkmal 9 Henry Van de Velde’ in de University Library in Ghent
(2004), ‘Denkmal 10’ in De Appel in Amsterdam (2003) and ‘Denkmal 53’
in the Tate Modern (2005).
In the Tate Modern, Jan de Cock's creations are bluntly called
No doubt, Jan de Cock makes three-dimensional objects, but they do not
represent something else than what they are, like the marble
of the sculptor
transformed in the representation of a body. Jan de Cock does not more
than introducing three-dimensional objects in architectural
environments. That does not differ in principle from the erection of a
Christmas tree on a square: also that intervention has an effect on the
surrounding space, but that does not turn the Christmas tree into a
sculpture. We are just dealing here with a form of spatial design.
Although the effect of Jan de Cock's intervention is totally different
from the effect of a Christmas tree. But however sophisticated the
effect of Jan de Cocks intervention may be, it rather seems that Jan
Cock is far more interested in erecting ‘Denkmäler’ for himself,
not otherwise than Jan Fabre, whose artistic endeavour culminates in the
obstinate erection of molds of his own body in bronze. The 'sculptures'
of Jan de Cock have many things in common with other interventions in
public space: the graffiti of anonymous youngster on the walls of our
cities. Or with statements like ‘Jan de Cock was here’ carved in
the walls of real ' Denkmäler' in the real world.In that respect, the
creations of Jan de Cock have their place in the history of art, where
'signing' of the canvas increasingly begins to replace the making of
the canvas itself: think of the lasso's of Pollock, the IKB of
Yves Klein, the ballpoints and beetles of Jan Fabre and what have you.
Apparently a very efficient form of 'name dropping', hence, if possible
even more weightier that Jan Fabre's 'body dropping'.
In that respect, 'Denkmal ISBN 9080842427' (2006) speaks volumes: a
monumental book designed by Jan de Cock with a report of his activities
of the last two years is presented in a library with the appropriate
name 'Copyright'. And this shameless self-promotion is announced as 'a
dialogue between a .... sculpture and the surrounding modernistic
In the wake of Nicholas Serota in the Tate, Peter Galassi has
invited Jan de Cock for an exhibition in the MoMA in 2008, where Jan De Cock
presents 'Denkmal 11', a floor-to-ceiling installation mixing colour and
black-and-white photographs of objects and installation views of MoMA's
collection, with a series of plywood sculptural modules that recall
For an extensive analysis of 'Repromotion' (2009) in Brussels see: 'Jan
De Cock: Rebus Design as a cult object'.
PETER DE CUPERE (°1970)
From the nineties onward,
Cupere creates all kinds of olfactive objects and spaces filled with
olfactive objects. Although he sometimes resorts to perfumes, he does not
recoil from introducing all kinds of bad smells. We are dealing here with a new variant
of olfactive design. Traditional variants are the use of perfumes on the
body and in the home or the garden. To be sure: De Cupere's
olfactive design is not 'functional' but 'free' (by analogy to the 'fine
arts': 'fine design'): it is not the intention to make
the body more attractive or the living room better smelling. De Cupere's approach
is purely 'aesthetic': he is only interested in smells for their own
But that does not turn his design into art: also wine does not become
an artwork in that it is not used to quench our thirst but to titillate our
taste-buds. It does not help that De Cupere has his smelling objects fixed
on 'paintings' on the wall ('Soap paintings', 'Scent paintings'), or that
he presents them in galleries and museums ('Smell Installations'). Even
less does the introduction of the dimension of time suffice to turn De
Cupere's olfactive design into art ('film' or 'music'): also during a walk in a traditional
garden do we experience an often enchanting succession of smells of
flowers, or we can enjoying the most sophisticated succession of tastes
during a gastronomical banquet. And it is also not because De Cupere
uses a a piano - his 'Olfactiano' - to combine the most diverse scents
in 'scent chords' that we are dealing here with 'Scent concerts'
or 'Scent sonatas' in the literal sense of the word. In fact, through
the introduction of visual objects, De Cupere is combining his olfactive
design with displayed reality, as
in his 'Mouldy Mattresses Installation'. That does not differ in
principle from flowers in a vase where the sight of the flowers is
combined with their perfume. But such combination does not turn a vase
of flowers or De Cupere's 'Mouldy Mattresses' in a 'Gesammtkunstwerk',
simply because it is not arts that are integrated here, like in opera of
in film, but real things. No 'integration of the arts' then, but
multimedial design (or multisensory displayed reality).
Which does not prevent De Cupere's multimedial design from brimming over
with creativity: it surely deserves our special attention.
FERRAN ADRIA (°1962)
Ferran Adrià, the Salvador Dali of food, is the famed head chef of the El Bulli restaurant
located in Roses outside Barcelona. He always felt he was making art, refers to his cooking as deconstructivist,
and declares: 'Something is art if the
art world decides that it is art.' And that is precisely what happened: Roger Buergel, the director of Documenta 12 in Kassel, invited Ferran Adrià
to participate at this prestigious show: "I have invited Ferran Adrià
because he has succeeded in generating his own aesthetic which has
become something very influential within the international scene. This
is what I am interested in and not whether people consider it to be art
or not. It is important to say that artistic intelligence doesn't
manifest itself in a particular medium, that art doesn't have to be
identified simply with photography, sculpture and painting etc., or with
cooking in general; however, under certain conditions, it can become
Ferran Adrià has decided to organise a 'hundred-day museum' cooking at his famed
restaurant as his contribution to the Documenta 12.
Ferran Adrià said he could not in good faith bring his cuisine to Kassel,
so Documenta must come to him.
Needless to say that there certainly is an art of cooking. But since
there is also an art of cheating, it is apparent that not every art is 'art' (see 'Art and Mimesis'):
Cooking is simply a form of design.
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