American designer Jonathan Muecke is an architect by training and followed an internship at the office of Herzog & de Meuron prior to his design studies. Known for simple yet inscrutable designs that are often very sculptural, he explores physical phenomena like mass, gravity, and light. Having spent a week in the brutalist Villa Van Wassenhove by Belgian architect Juliaan Lampens, he has responded to the setting through a new series of works.
DAMN°: In your work, you seem to challenge readability and traditional paradigms of what a table or lamp should look like. The function of Decentralised Light can almost only be grasped because of its title. How does it work?
JM: It makes light with an LED that aims downwards. The light is decentralised. There’s no light in the centre. It defines a volume but there is nothing, a kind of absence.
DAMN°: So it would seem that you want to include physical phenomena like light or voids in your work?
JM: Yes, but in a more direct way. I don’t want to be so elusive. The material aspect of these objects is crucial. They have to understand gravity, structure, colour, and light. These things are universal and are also explored by architects, sculptors, etc.
DAMN°: Like Anish Kapoor exploring a void?
JM: Yes…but I don’t know if I would use that as a reference. I think he is able to isolate a variation of an object and somehow exploit it. Rather than doing that, I try to equalise all the characteristics. If you make the material the same as the shape, the scale, and the colour, then you have an object that’s in balance.
DAMN°: You just completed a residency at a house by Juliaan Lampens and produced some new pieces. Can you tell something more about these works?
JM: I developed new work for the house that can also exist outside of the house. I like Lampens’ stools very much. As I was going to be making furniture for the house, I could not make a contemporary version of the stools. Lampens also made daybeds, built-in tables, and a desk for the villa. They possess a potential that was transferable in a nice way to the objects I proposed. One of the works I made was a new reference to the Decentralised Light. There are lights of two different heights, a single one and a double one. The lamp casts light downwards and low. Its shape is like an arc with three legs.
DAMN°: Besides having show your new pieces at the Lampens house, you also exhibited them at MANIERA and at Jan Mot Gallery, where your lamps were presented next to Lampens’ daybeds and sound works by Joachim Koester and Stefan Pedersen. Your work thrives at the crossroads between art, design, and architecture…
JM: In the United States, I always show my work in a design gallery. Here in Europe, it’s interesting to present objects in architectural surrounds, like at the Lampens villa, and also to parallel that in an art gallery. In both cases, you develop a context. That is something I find interesting.