Why Furniture is “Survivalist Art”: Dozie Kanu x Rimowa in Milan

Created in collaboration with Rimowa and presented by Kaleidoscope, furniture designer Dozie Kanu’s exhibition at Milan’s Spazio Maiocchi was a material study on the tension between the portable (suitcases) and the un-portable (furniture). The most totemic manifestation of this paradox were his marble Rimowa chairs: impossibly heavy-looking marble blocks with Rimowa’s signature wheels dangling helplessly, and permanently, above the ground. At play here is the idea that in a creative landscape that has become increasingly nomadic — the Rimowa landscape — use value and form can be assigned at will. This is the notion of “living out of a suitcase” taken literally.

032c’s Thom Bettridge spoke to Dozie Kanu in Milan:

When I was looking at your marble stools with the suitcase fused to them, I thought of this very deadpan one-liner by Mitch Hedberg: “An escalator can’t break, it can only become stairs.”

[Laughs]

In your case, a suitcase can’t break, it can just become a chair.

That’s so funny. This is essentially what I’m doing.

What were your first thoughts when you started approaching these “anti-suitcases”?

Right now, the concept “traveling frequently” is very central to my interests and art. I started thinking about what I gain from traveling, because every year I travel more than I did the last year, and every year I get closer to what I’m truly doing as a living. The more you travel, it’s like you reach another level of understanding, not only of people but cultures and yourself. The two objects that sort of communicate that the best are the mirrors, the distorted mirrors, and the stepladder that became a bookshelf. I was also really intrigued by the idea that a planter and a wastebasket can essentially be the same shape, but they do completely opposite things. One’s for getting rid of stuff and one’s for keeping and growing stuff.

There’s this funny point of divergence between furniture and artworks, where furniture is set apart by being considered “useful”? How do you play with that idea of use value?

I have this anxiety because every day I find out about another new artist, and then I’m like, “Damn, there’s an endless pool of artists in this world.” And, in a weird way, they’re fighting for the stability to continue making art, but also for their place in art history. Sometimes I feel there’s no way that art can accommodate all of these people.

Interesting.

So, in a hundred years, two hundred years, what happens to all of these artworks that are being made? These objects that essentially don’t do anything feel like adding that extra layer of functionality might give the work an extra life.

So furniture is a survival tactic for your artwork. Even if all the history is burned, and no one knows who you are, they can sit in your chair.

They’ll look at it and be like, “Oh, this is a chair. I can use this.” Wanting to be useful adds a layer of sincerity.

That’s funny because a lot of modern art is about saying, “Wait, how do I take something useful and make it not work?” Like Duchamp.

Right. I’m the opposite of Duchamp.

Text THOM BETTRIDGE

Photography PIETRO SAVORELLI AND IVAN GRIANTI

Deeper

  • 032c WWB Collection

    032c WWB “Chevignon by 032c” Cosmo Jacket Green

    €480
    Buy Now
  • The 154 Exactitudes of Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek

    Do people find their individuality when they dress to fit in, or do they lose it? Since 1994, Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek’s highly-detailed photo series Exactitudes has compelled fundamental questions about the rules that govern fashion, individualism, and collectivity.More
  • 032c WWB Collection

    032c WWB Keyholder

    €60
  • Overcoming Originality: MAURIZIO CATTELAN and Gucci Steal Shanghai

    Speaking about his new show at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai, a collaboration with Alessandro Michele of Gucci, artist and curator Maurizio Cattelan says, “We are both fascinated witnesses of the overcoming of originality in our contemporary society.” The exhibition brings together works from more than 30 artists that, like Cattelan’s own oeuvre, question notions of reproduction and newness, considering the lives of copies, and the overdue absolution of the copyist.More
  • METAHAVEN: Version History at the London Institute of Contemporary Arts

    There’s something of a derelict cinema or post-riot feel to “Version History,” the installation which houses art-design collective Metahaven’s latest film. “Eurasia” goes in search of the New Silk Road: Chinese premier Xi Jinping’s multi-billion dollar global trade infrastructure initiative to link East and West, a geopolitically contested space re-envisioned as an epistemologically war-torn landscape.More
  • Fandom at the Grand Palais: Michael Jackson On The Wall in Paris

    The works included in the exhibition appear like fan art or fan fiction, as though their contents live the rest of the time on sites like DeviantArt or Archive of Our Own – not in the world’s great collections. At the same time, it reads like a contemporary art who’s who, as if revealing one’s feelings about the King of Pop were a necessary stage in the career of an artist.More