A cu­ra­tor’s art

Neue Luxury - - Front Page - By Paul Tier­ney

Lukas Machnik is far more than the sum of his parts. In myr­iad ven­tures— in­te­rior de­sign, fur­ni­ture, ob­jects, art—the Chicago-based Pole im­bues his work with the eye of an au­teur. Avant-garde, haunt­ing, graphic, bold—these are hardly com­mer­cial ad­jec­tives, and yet this is how you might de­scribe the Machnik aes­thetic, the abil­ity to cross-ref­er­ence and stamp per­son­al­ity onto a project with a pro­found dis­re­gard for con­ven­tion. In essence, he is the very def­i­ni­tion of a re­nais­sance man. “I’ve heard that term used to de­scribe me,” he says, “but I don’t de­fine my­self with this la­bel. I just do things that bring me joy. For me, merg­ing art, de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture is nat­u­ral. I see my­self as a life­style creator.”

With new cen­tury op­ti­mism, Machnik set up his de­sign prac­tice in 2000, re­mod­el­ing the homes of ad­ven­tur­ous clients into im­pos­ing spa­ces. But these were not ephemeral make-overs, rather grand up-scal­ing projects that took the lines of ar­chi­tec­ture and mar­ried them to the artist’s eye. “Every­thing stems from at­trac­tion and ideas,” he ex­plains. “In the an­cient world there was no dis­tinc­tion be­tween art and de­sign. Ev­ery­day ob­jects could be works of art and were por­trayed as such. I am at­tracted to ma­te­ri­als like con­crete, ply­wood, bronze and glass, and fig­ures such as Carlo Scarpa, Le Cor­bus­ier, Richard Serra and Don­ald Judd to name a few. I re­late to their work. I don’t like assem­bly lines and mass pro­duc­tion.”

He is a col­lab­o­ra­tor at heart, happy to use crafts­men to help build his vi­sion, and will­ing to show­case the tal­ents of oth­ers. His LMD off­shoot, a web space where he cu­rates and sells the work of his con­tem­po­raries, is a world unto it­self— a shrine to moder­nity and form. It’s a place where the fur­ni­ture line of Rick Owens sits com­fort­ably next to a clas­sic Eames as well as the mes­meris­ing wall light in­stal­la­tions of Char­lotte Per­riand. “It’s all about life­style,” he says. “Like the Bauhaus ideals of to­tal de­sign, it’s about sim­pli­fy­ing com­plex­ity.” PAUL TIER­NEY: You say you’re an in­te­rior de­signer with an artist’s sen­si­bil­ity. Can you ex­pand on that? LUKAS MACHNIK: It’s just an­other la­bel. I am not one over the other. I am all of these things in equal mea­sure. I am an artist, de­signer, pro­ducer and ar­chi­tect. But at the end of the day I iden­tify with the idea of cu­ra­tion. A cu­ra­tor takes all of these dis­parate ideas, forms and ma­te­ri­als and makes them work to­gether. PT: Your work has been de­scribed as ‘dark tech min­i­mal­ism’. How com­fort­able are you with that de­scrip­tion?

LM: It’s very hard to com­prise a vo­cab­u­lary to de­scribe my work. I don’t think my de­sign ide­ol­ogy ex­ists in a word. Its not min­i­mal­ism, its not avant-garde— these things are sim­ply ref­er­ence points. As far as tech­nol­ogy goes, I do ap­ply it to cer­tain as­pects of my work. How­ever I feel very strongly con­nected to an­cient ar­ti­sanal tech­niques. Tech­nol­ogy is some­thing that I have been work­ing with, es­pe­cially in my col­lab­o­ra­tion with Evan Suger­man, Parts of Four Home (P4H). The idea for P4H is a scaled-up ver­sion of Evan’s jew­ellery line Parts of Four. In our de­sign process, a bru­tal­ist quartz crys­tal neck­lace trans­forms into a mas­sive il­lu­mi­nated crys­tal ceil­ing pen­dant. PT: That doesn’t sound very min­i­mal. LM: A lot of peo­ple think of min­i­mal­ism as an aes­thetic, whereas in my view min­i­mal­ism rep­re­sents a life­style. Clean lines ar­chi­tec­turally present a plat­form or a stage upon which you present things that are im­por­tant to you. It is about this un­clut­tered en­vi­ron­ment where you con­ceal the un­nec­es­sary. As for color, to me black, white and grey con­tain a mul­ti­tude of nu­anced and sub­tle colours. It is not about ‘pops’ of colour. Rather, the colour ex­ists in the black. PT: What does the work say about you? LM: That’s a tricky ques­tion. My work and I go hand in hand. What I re­lease is what I feel in­side. It’s ba­si­cally a re­flec­tion of my per­son­al­ity, pas­sions and ideas. It is very seam­less. There is no dis­con­nect be­tween my work and my­self. I em­body the life­style that I cre­ate. PT: How the does the man­tle ‘the bad boy of de­sign’ sit with you? LM: (Laughs) “it’s what I’ve been called. Years ago, the ideas that I was pre­sent­ing seemed to be con­tro­ver­sial, whereas now they have be­come more ac­cept­able. Be­ing a pi­o­neer is about pre­sent­ing ideas with­out cen­sor­ing your­self, which is prob­a­bly the men­tal­ity that in­spired the nick­name. Per­son­ally I don’t think that any­thing I’ve done is so ex­tra­or­di­nary or ground­break­ing, I just did what I liked. Peo­ple just didn’t know what to say about it, so it be­came con­ve­nient to la­bel me a rebel. Now I just laugh at it.” PT: Tell me about your feel­ings on iden­tity. Is it a fluid, ever- chang­ing con­cept, or some­thing set in stone? LM: Iden­tity is such a fluid no­tion. We con­stantly change and evolve. There is al­ways go­ing to be a com­mon thread that ties and bonds what we do. How­ever I don’t be­lieve in just do­ing one thing your en­tire life. You have to branch out and try dif­fer­ent things, and these things are go­ing to drive the evo­lu­tion of your iden­tity. But of course it is al­ways im­por­tant to stay true to your beliefs and not be led astray by trends; to be­lieve in your own truth. PT: De­scribe your mind­set in terms of break­ing rules LM: Rules in gen­eral are meant to be bro­ken and bound­aries are meant to be pushed. If I can’t find a way I will make my own. It’s about be­ing cre­atively chal­lenged, not go­ing for the easy way out, and try­ing not to repli­cate par­tic­u­lar aes­thet­ics. Stay­ing within the bound­aries of ex­ist­ing rules some­times just isn’t chal­leng­ing enough. PT: Tell me about your in­spi­ra­tors—who in­forms your taste? LM: Each creator I hold in high re­gard has an iconic sen­si­bil­ity with how they work with ma­te­ri­als and trans­form the world. At the be­gin­ning of their ca­reers they shocked peo­ple, pushed bound­aries and cre­ated some­thing time­less. For ex­am­ple, Don­ald Judd pi­o­neered art with sim­ple forms and shapes, and Le Cor­bus­ier took con­crete to an­other level. Of course there are also my con­tem­po­raries: Rick Owens and Michèle Lamy. All of these in­flu­ences have a very strong sin­gu­lar point of view that is un­tainted. That is what I ad­mire about them. PT: Can you talk about your clients—what type of per­son wants LMD? LM: My clients have very so­phis­ti­cated and dis­cern­ing taste. They know ex­actly what they want, and in that sense they are col­lec­tors of LMD. They want the spe­cific and unique life­style that LMD de­liv­ers through art, ar­chi­tec­ture and de­sign. We are very in­volved with our clients, and our gen­eral men­tal­ity has al­ways been less is more. I don’t take on projects just to take on an­other project. As the client in­ter­views me for a project, I also in­ter­view the client. I am at a point where I can choose who I work with. Mov­ing for­ward, it is very im­por­tant that I don’t com­pro­mise my in­tegrity. It’s not that I want to be un­avail­able, I’m just say­ing that I’m not go­ing to break form and do a ‘red room’ or some­thing just be­cause its on-trend (laughs). PT: How do you ap­proach an in­te­rior? Is there a method­ol­ogy that you fol­low? LM: The space it­self will dic­tate what di­rec­tion I will go in. It all de­pends on the age and style of the struc­ture. I be­gin the de­sign process by lis­ten­ing to what this build­ing has to say to me, and then mix those ideas with the wants and needs of the client. This is where the crazi­ness be­gins, I take all these in­gre­di­ents and I fol­low them in­tu­itively. But it’s never just about aes­thet­ics; it’s also about func­tion. It has to have all of the in­gre­di­ents that make it a home. I don’t just want to build mon­u­ments to my­self. PT: Can we dis­cuss the de­vel­op­ment of your cur­rent and fu­ture projects and col­lab­o­ra­tions?

LM: There are nu­mer­ous projects that we have been work­ing on for a num­ber of years that will be re­vealed soon. We launched LMD/ studio in Chicago (and its sub­se­quent on­line plat­form) and we’re reach­ing a world­wide au­di­ence with Parisian based P4 – LMD, the brain­child of Evan Suger­man and my­self. This is where you’ll find our col­lab­o­ra­tive work along­side works from artists and de­sign­ers in­clud­ing Rick Owens, Michèle Lamy and Lon­ney White. Ad­di­tion­ally, Evan and I launched our sec­ond P4H col­lec­tion in De­cem­ber 2015. We mixed in new ma­te­ri­als like brass and bronze with ma­te­ri­als from the first P4H col­lab­o­ra­tions. The pieces in­cluded lim­ited edi­tion con­cep­tual light­ing as­sem­blies with smaller ob­jects. We de­liv­ered some­thing fresh and un­seen, which was the goal from the be­gin­ning be­cause we didn’t want to pro­duce things that were fash­ion­able and widely dis­sem­i­nated; the aim was to pro­duce our own in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what we love to do. We work to­gether so seam­lessly, with Evan’s en­gi­neer­ing and tech­nol­ogy skills and both our de­sign sen­si­bil­i­ties. The end re­sult, in my opin­ion, has been spec­tac­u­lar.

Im­ages: courtesy of Lmd/studio.

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