Reims was a good choice. Proximity to the French capital guaranteed a teaching staff of professional Parisian-based designers, and the school itself, significantly inspired by the Bauhaus model, also encouraged independent and autonomous production, something that would be practical for his future training at the Design Academy Eindhoven.
Martin and his girlfriend, the designer Léa Mestres, had prepared a spread of cheese and paté accompanied by a salad. It sounds cliché but true, and I gave Léa the anemones that I had picked up along the way. We chatted about their recent return to Paris. They are currently preparing limited edition pieces for their individual practices in coming fairs in 2019 (Brussels, Milan, Paris, Los Angeles…). We also talked about innovation, technology, accessibility, judgement, mechanical modulation, and then a digression into the legacy of Auto-Tune, Cher and Mirwais.
Remember Auto-Tune is a plug-in (never to be confused with vocoder for you aficionados), which was created by an Exxon geophysicist attempting to write algorithms to interpret seismic wave data in order to identify underground oil deposits. The story goes that one of his wife’s friends wished she could use a device to help her improve her pitch and sing on key. And with that, Auto-Tune was born. Detect, analyse, modify. Sound engineers first used the tech on Cher’s 1998 hit, Believe, and the first ever track for complete vocals was Naïve Song by Mirwais in 2000, followed by a host of others. Daft Punk of course, and even Radiohead, on their 2001 album Amnesiac.
The practice of casting is a 6,000 year-old-process and Martin, over just a short two years, worked non-stop to take his technique towards materialised expressions. In point of fact one could observe that he has taken a tool, and transformed it into an actual instrument. The resulting mould and cast reverberate. He uses the deliberate reflection of each and methodically integrates both into the final object. Even his signature acts as a mirrored reflection. This technique optimises his working method and underlines his considerably limited resources.
In 2016 I came across an article in Les Inrockuptibles by Xavier Ridel, who supposed that Auto-Tune had passed its statute as a tool and had become a veritable instrument, permitting new textures of expressions in modern music. What started as an easily accessible tool became more than an artistic gesture, and more an object of composition and style. What about Martin? For two years after graduation he stayed in Eindhoven and strived to develop his work, and even began experimenting with ceramics.
In September of 2017 he would ‘get lucky’. He was invited, along with a selection of young talent from Europe’s best design schools, to show in an exhibition curated by Li Edelkoort called The Graduate(s) at Carpenters Workshop Gallery. Carpenters, founded in London in 2006 by Frenchmen Julien Lombrail and Loic Le Gaillard, has galleries in Paris, New York and, more recently in 2018, San Francisco. In 2015 the duo opened an 8,000 square metre production space outside of Paris, near Roissy airport, dedicated exclusively to research and development in art and design.
One month after the London show, Martin received a visit in Eindhoven during Dutch Design Week, and by the spring of 2018, his work was being shown with Carpenters at the PAD fair in Paris alongside internationally rising and well-established creatives Ron Arad, Maarten Baas, Andrea Branzi, Campana Brothers, Atelier Van Lieshout, Nendo, Wonmin Park and Franz West.
I asked him how he felt about this experience, and what I really meant was, ‘What does this type of recognition feel like?’ He replied, ‘I had been working very hard, and Carpenters has helped me approach my work in the long term. The gallery has given me the resources to develop and drives me to keep researching. I feel like I can do many things in the future, no matter the scale. And yes, I like to control the process. I really must control it. It is the only way I can understand my method and the result. That is the only thing I can be responsible for. And that’s what makes me free.’
Perhaps what Martin means is that stubbornness can also be a form of plainspoken persistence, unguarded tenacity, and genuine belief. Perhaps what Martin believes is that he alone defines his tools. At 27 years old he is the youngest designer to be on the Carpenters Workshop roster.