www.wilkhahn.de, September 2005

Ron Arad – The Master's Selection: exhibition in Münster through 28 October 2005

Young design is on view at the Ausstellungshalle zeitgenössische Kunst Münster (Exhibition Hall of Modern Art). Star designer Ron Arad has compiled the best final projects of his students at the Royal Cyollege of Art – design that digs deep.

The works of the twelve selected students of design guru Ron Arad are really a tough one. They cure anyone visiting the design exhibition who has reservations from the very outset: the cult of commodities is after all a clear indication of the ubiquitous withdrawal into the private sphere, of the disintegration of a society into individual interests with which one can tuck up on the sofa in front of the fire. There is some extraordinarily apolitical about design, enjoyment of form out of sheer pleasure. Anyone relegating design to the confines of pleasantness, inevitably of triviality, is probably only waiting for the design classic of the century to add to their private collection of timeless furniture.

The star graduates of the Royal College of Art completely shake up traditional expectations. Within no time it becomes clear that utility value is not the yardstick of their talent. At first glance it is quite witty to see leather benches posing on the ground like cows, decorative motifs on fine china concealed on the underside of the plate and light bulbs together with their cables floating in vases as lighting objects for the living room.

What all this about is in fact rebellion: the ribs underneath the leather of the cow – do they just look like it? Hope they're not bones. Who knows what is hiding beneath the sewn leather? It is hidden from sight, you can just feel it. A mystery just like the inside of a real cow, for example the one that had to sacrifice its life for the leather bench. She is called "Eileen".

And what are those creeping flowers doing underneath the plate while the manufacturer's stamp is emblazoned on the top? Is that what understatement is about? I doubt it. After all, the true value of this kind of white gold is not based on the décor but on the brand which one can unobtrusively peer at when sitting at the table and see it mirrored in the polish surface of one's knife. The shamelessly hidden flower décor, robbed of its function and placed on the underside even appears to have a threatening quality when we think of Adolf Loos' incantation: that ornament spells crime. In this case, it is lurking underneath the china, awaiting the noble middle classes.

Light cables in water creating a cosy aquarium jungle impression are not a far shot from thoughts of a hairdryer in the bath tub, leaving the veined lighting object to conjure up associations with suicide. Ron Arad has such latent tendencies too as he permits parricide by allowing one of his students to do up one the master's classic chairs and turn it into a racing version.

Although the works of Ron Arad's best students vary greatly they all tell a story. They are much more than just aesthetically pleasing. They cannot be described merely in terms of their surface. The objects are subversive; they provoke questions that do not stop within our own four walls. They possess what Adorno would have called an "experience core". Quite different to those things that "under the law of their pure functional nature assume a form that limits dealings with them to mere handling". The objects on view do fulfil functions; in fact they can be used with pleasure, but more as a camouflage. They are parasites who, as agents of the world out there, want to infiltrate our lives.

Jan Rinke

»Ausstellungshalle zeitgenössische Kunst