Lines lightening the air
On the processing of immaterial space and the supportive framework in furniture within the work of Studio Mieke Meijer.
By Freek Lomme
“Actually…”: a word we often use at the start of a phrase introducing an optional scenario, in which the meaning of ‘actually’ resonates in an implicit, understanding of the subject it refers to, as it is experienced– a kind of understanding which, moreover, is fed by an apparently logical reference to a wider notion, viz. “the actual use”.
The fact is, that ‘actually’ refers to the relation between the origin and the relevant object at the site in which it acts. Whatever may or may not be ‘actual’, has arrived in this particular situation on site because it was consciously situated, or has ended up there by coincidence. The ‘actual’ is an acting and involved element in the space in which it enacts itself: sometimes consciously, sometimes rather unconsciously. Sometimes we put it in place, sometimes we just run into it and recognize it, and sometimes we do not even notice it. We constantly attribute abstract mental scenarios while applying ‘actual’ practical conduct through the matter situated in our environment.
We might argue that the resulting situation includes ‘a memory of things’ or ‘the potential of things’. If we determine it as such, we understand our relation to things on the basis of our awareness. After all, only man consciously applies his memory or capacity in shaping his experience in the relevant context or in his determination of things.
These appointing capacities are both cognitive and perceptive: here we operate on the thin line between the things we do or do not ‘observe’. Therefore, we can ask ourselves what we can do in reality to create a more specific, complete totality, navigating between what we do, and what we do not understand.
Mieke Meijer and Roy Letterlé allow themselves to be inspired by immaterial space and absorb this independent quality to motivate their craft as a major source of relief for those experiencing their work. They take historical typologies as a starting point for the course they pursue. In this way they extend the lines of shapes created by time. The actual lines traced in their work remain parallel to the ‘actual’ source –thereby playing our ‘memory of things’- while re-embodying new forms and introducing themselves into a new environment, establishing a new ‘potential of things’. The material of this embodiment is carefully weighed and crafted. In most works this is emphasized because the embodiment / the furniture is divided into separate, but linkable segments, or into volumes disengaged by structures functioning as outlines of the space they frame. Instead of framing the air, the works rather allows it to resonate.
The resulting open structure interweaves the ‘actual’ by extending its historical genesis with the actuality of co-existence of all actors in the situation of the aerial concerned. This interweaving takes place through channels of airy volumes: the frames/outlines exposing the space between segments and emphasizing the space within the segments. Here we can successively move, feel, make contact and blend with the environment.
This is how Meijer and Letterlé take on the immateriality of space among us, by using the furniture’s potential as a body in its environment. In fact it is similar to the way in which the white between lines of poetry and the walls in the ‘white cube’ provides a breathing space and freedom to focus. They allow this space and actually, we feel at home with it – exactly because it provides space in which inadequacies can breathe.
Modernity has never been modern in the sense in which we often experience it: our culture has never dominated nature, even if technocratic neoliberalism wants to imbue us with an instrumentalist view of the world – an all-encompassing experience in which every element is consciously linked to another, in which every space is constrained and there is no room left to breathe. With the post-war reconstruction, modernity has run wild, growing uncontrollably into a consumption society with only material things to hold on to and in which, as its function disintegrated, we lost the relation with the immaterial as a way to grasp our environment.
In Studio Mieke Meijers’ work the ‘actual’ of our modern roots is recognized and has its effect on the immaterial receptivity of the furniture in its context. Building upon our sense for modern languages, they combine the modern with consumption, taking the autonomy of high culture into the conceivable sphere of furniture, as a popular and domestic object of consumption culture. The work is in line with the structures our collective memory has been conditioned to – recognizing objects and understanding our heritage in its context. The work is light-hearted and fluffs up the hermetical nature of our everyday environment, precisely in those areas where this material environment is overly dominated by its consumption value and utility. The work flirts with the furniture’s object value and suggests a practical value it sometimes allows. Whether it is applied art or autonomous - that is rather a warm and open beaconing gesture than a critical question.
While the work continues along this set of lines, it inserts the immaterial space and makes room for it as an essential object, involving it into the interrelationships of the whole. Exactly because it is an ephemeral object, it is no part of – but may extend - the existing vocabulary of experiences which we use to understand our environment. Furniture has a lot of potential, exactly because it consists of objects of material desire and provides everyday support. I suspect that the major quality of Meijer and Letterlé’s work consists in its capacity to involve this immaterial space into the encompassing experience and in its capacity to understand this totality in its broadest sense. This work probably enchants us so much because it extends the material support furniture offers, by way of the liberating effect of this capacity. It is nice to take a breath of it, to breathe it out, and breathe deeply again.
Freek Lomme is a curator and writer, and (among other things) managing director of Onomatopee.
 Latour, Bruno (1993), We have never been modern. Harvard University Press.