To round off our week of interviews, we were lucky enough to speak to Erwan Bouroullec, who with his brother Ronan has been responsible for the most talked about installation at this year’s London Design Festival – the simply superb Textile Field at The V&A.
There’s a moment at any major event which sticks in your mind, that becomes a totemic memory of all that is exciting, and special and important about it. For me that came last Saturday afternoon at The V&A on the Bouroullec brothers’ Textile Field a 240 square metre canvas platform built smack bang in the middle of the 150-year-old Raphael Gallery. Children scampered, tourists beamed, art lovers stretched back and drank in the sublime Raphael cartoons and a young couple next to us took the unlikely opportunity to get up and close and, ahem, very personal in a museum.
The men behind my moment, Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec, had pulled off the seemingly impossible, installing a piece that was a joy in its own right while at the same time enhancing the great work it sat next to, or rather enhancing the experience of the visitors enjoying that great work.
“We found it quite difficult to find a reason for design to be in front of such masterpieces,” Erwan said from their Paris studio yesterday. “We definitely didn’t want several pieces of design, we wanted one really singular idea.
“It was quite an issue to make the piece familiar enough so that people feel quite at ease playing with it, but not making it too familiar – we wanted to avoid it becoming silly. But it was really important that it did not look too much like a piece of art but rather an open platform.”
Offered their choice of any room in the grand old museum, the Bouroullecs wanted space enough to explore the question of how people behave and interact in that environment. They wanted to encourage contemporary behaviour in the space so that people enjoyed the cartoons on their own terms, unable as we are to travel back in time and appreciate them how Raphael intended, reverend hush or no reverend hush.
The idea of being comfortable, of lying down, toys with the idea of museums and their culture, liberating the whole process of enjoying art.
“I am really, really pleased with it – we have seen some really nice behaviour. One of the best things is how social the platform has been, it has brought people together. There is no sense of private property –’I am here you should not be there.’
“It’s not like an airport where you see people looking round for their own bench and putting down their bag next to them so nobody else can sit down. It acts not like a piece of furniture but like a wide green park.”