Art and design often play with thereness and not thereness, with absences, voids and implied absences. Art can also do anxiety inducing; design, almost by definition, not so much. Konstantin Grcic's new furniture collection for Galerie Kreo, Man Machine, taking its name from a 1978 Kraftwerk album, does both.
The nine-piece collection includes a chaise, tables, chests and a book-shelf, all made out of industrial float glass by a glass workshop established in Frankfurt in 1829. As Grcic says, industrial-spec glass is not an obvious material to make furniture out of - 'it's cold, hard, fragile and really heavy.'
It's also not there in the way that most materials are, presenting particular design challenges, especially if it is pretty much the only material you are working with. You don't know how visible it is going to be and in what ways. Grcic says he produced computer drawings and models for the pieces but, given the workshop's industrial capabilities, he could also produce several versions of his designs before arriving at the one that worked. There were failures and discoveries along the way he admits. 'There is a considerable amount of engineering involved,' he says. 'It's not rocket science but the pieces have to be functional, and work properly.'
What makes pieces in the collection more than Larry Bell-alike novelties is the addition of hinges, cranks and black silicon gas-filled pistons. The pieces are dynamic; you can move and adjust them. In fact, because these mechanics are so visible, the pieces become as much about them as the effects of glass-on-glass, stark angles and geometry in the air. 'They are almost a celebration of the pistons,' Grcic says.
They are also a counter to the anxiety effect of the glass furniture. 'They humanise the designs,' he says, hence the Man Machine title. 'And there is poetry in their slow, precise movement. It is unexpected. They also make a great noise.'