Mathematician and science writer Martin Gardner described Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark as an 'impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature' in his 1974 treatise The Annotated Snark. Full of Boojums and Bandersnatches, the nonsense poem is an exploration of the inadequacy of language, meaning and symbols, and features a crew using a blank piece of paper as a map.
This is the territory into which the artist Daniel Arsham and architect Alex Mustonen have placed their work by naming their art and design studio Snarkitecture. 'The Hunting of the Snark tells the story of these misfits who are on a misguided search,' explain the pair. 'They set out into the ocean with a blank map, searching for this ineffable, unknown thing.' (The first edition of The Hunting of the Snark in 1876 also contained one of the first printed appearances of 'thingumajig', a word invaluable to those working at the wilder edges of the design world.)
Snarkitecture is, the pair say, a collaboration operating in territories between the disciplines of art and architecture. They met while studying at Cooper Union and have collaborated since at their Brooklyn studio. Their challenging projects and installations have included an exhibition at Miami's Volume Gallery, 'Funiture', which featured seemingly broken or falling apart furniture that was actually functional.
'We focus on the investigation of structure, material and programme and how these elements can be manipulated to serve new and imaginative purposes,' says Arsham. 'Snarkitecture aims to make architecture perform the unexpected.'
Wallpaper* paired a number of designers, including Snarkitecture, with wool from The Woolmark Company for our Wallpaper* Handmade exhibition, safe in the knowledge that they would all interpret the brief in radically different ways. We were not disappointed (see image gallery above). For their project, Arsham and Mustonen created a series of light fixtures made by stacking layers of thick wool felt to build up forms that recall familiar pendants. From the outside, the fixtures appear whole, while from the inside, excavations can be seen, cut into the interior to create a contoured landscape with a light at the end of it.
'The starting point for us working with wool was to reimagine the material within the context of a functional object,' explains Arsham. 'Thick felt offered the possibility of stacking the material to create a series of forms that were then cut into, exposing a range of excavated topographies that reveal a light concealed within. Suspended from the ceiling as a pendant or sitting on a table as a lamp, the wool creates an unexpected warmth and softness in an object that balances crisp lines with the sculptural texture of the excavated areas.'