The Duo Blurring the Boundaries of Art and Interior Design

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© Muller Van Severen

As their interactive installation at Browns East continues, we speak with design collective Muller Van Severen about their practice

Following in the footsteps of prominent contemporary culture names Travis Scott and Demna Gvasalia’s subversive design collective Vetements, Belgian photographer Fien Muller and artist Hans Van Severen – better known as furniture collective Muller Van Severen – are the latest creatives to take over the entrance space at London’s Browns East. For those unfamiliar with the building itself, this outpost of the respected fashion concept store is defined by its modular architectural versatility that provides ample opportunity for gallery-style showcases. 

The latest installation incorporates lamps, chairs, tables and objects, each welcoming interaction from the Browns East visitor. It sits in line with the pair’s mantra: “each object comes to life with use; the human form playing an essential part in the design”. Here, we speak to the duo about their practice and the increasingly blurred boundaries between the fields of art and design. 

On categorising their work...
Fien Muller: “When we make something we are not thinking of making one or the other [art or design]. We simply want to create very interesting pieces and we don’t put them in a category – either art, or furniture. We want to make a functional object and we think it’s very important to think about whether it works or not. That’s the thing we want to focus on, we’re not thinking of what it has to be. We want to make it interesting and functional. The categorising of the genre isn’t so important. The definition is irrelevant. Of course we make furniture pieces as an art, but the definition is irrelevant.”

Hannes Van Sevren: “We are working very much from the gut, so we just experiment and try keeping things or adding things or taking things away as we go. That way when we create a new piece or object, it’s just very natural. We are working in the same way as we did before we joined together for Muller Van Severin – as artists. We are still working with interesting materials, too, creating forms with cardboard, with paint or with steel.”

On subjectivity and functionality...
HVS: “The result is subjective. For everybody it will be something else. For us it’s really important when you’re making something, to ask the question: ‘Do you want to live with this piece in your house?’ When we make something we try it in our living room. We try to live with it, invite guests to our home to experience it and juxtapose the pieces with other objects in our living spaces.”

FM: “We want to see the interaction between the object and and the room. It’s very important that we see the object interact with the space.”

On the differences between gallery and living spaces...
HVS: “If you put something in a real existing living space, the furniture has to become one with the space, with your personal things. In that way, it’s about disappearing, the objects becoming one with your personal life. This was the idea behind a project we made for the Airbnb booth during Design Miami. The brief was to create a living space and to react to what it can mean to share a home – you were supposed to create your ideal furniture in your ideal home, but it felt very artificial, so the first thing we thought was well let’s just move, or copy, our living room. This is the space we’ve already investigated for years – it’s one that feels truly alive.”

FM: “Then you have to show everything – you have to show the things you are actually not so proud of. You’re living in that space, so you have to show what it really is to live in a space, not only the beautiful things as within a gallery.”

Muller Van Severen for valerie_objects is available to purchase at Browns East now.