by Zohra KhanOct 08, 2021
Fabian Oefner has always followed a playfully methodical approach to art, and his works that sit at the magical junction of photography, sculpture and product design, are an exploration of time, space and reality. The Swiss artist, in his latest work, The Bialetti Book, manages to take a coffee table book and elevate it to a fascinating object – by creating it, literally, out of coffee and a sliced coffee maker!
The Bialetti Book forms part of a series called Spatial Books, which is a collection of iconic objects turned into tomes. Here, Oefner fills a Bialetti Moka espresso pot with actual coffee and embeds it in resin – another one of his signature materials. This becomes a solid block, which is then dissected into pages and bound on a white wooden spine and panel, resulting in a 32 x 26 x 15 cm, 12-page coffee table book, an edition of five. “The reason why it is a Moka pot is that I was exploring different design objects from different countries. The Moka pot is part of the Italian series, that also contains a 1960 Brionvega radio and a 1991 Ferrari Formula 1 car,” reveals Oefner.
The Spatial Book series celebrates physical transformation, like Studio Oefner’s other series, which consist of art objects with roots in product design. This series seeks to counter the reality of our current world where digital dematerialisation has advanced rapidly. Most of the information we get is obtained via screens and is largely unidimensional while gaining information through a book is a multi-sensory experience - we use our eyes to read, our hands to hold, while neurons fire up to create stories and understand information. These books simplify that but retain the element of curiosity.
“Usually, books depict an abstraction of reality, whether by describing something through words or images. This book eliminates that abstraction by reducing and showing the real object in its pages. It is an instantaneous information gain about the Moka pot through our eyes and touch, expressing an iconic design in a different mode,” mentions Oefner.
The sculptural The Bialetti book has a predecessor in The Brionvega Book, which encased a 1960 Brionvega radio in its translucent, resin pages. Why resin? “Resin for me is a three-dimensional equivalent of photography. In the most literal sense, it lets me capture objects and moments and eternalise them in a specific state or form, like photography, where an image freezes a certain moment in eternity. Resin has the advantage of not only doing this in two but in three dimensions,” explains Oefner.
Oefner also tells us that he and his team took quite a few attempts to get the process right. “Usually, an idea like ‘embedding an object in resin and then slicing it into pages’ sounds easy, but to do it is a whole different ball game. The cutting alone took us more than a month to figure out and execute correctly,” he says. Binding the book was another challenge – compared to the materials that make up actual books, this one uses resin, wood, and percolator and so is drastically heavier. “Conventional binding was not an option. Therefore, we had to look into different solutions and mechanics for the employed materials. Ultimately, we spent about half a year to develop this and reach the final object,” he continues.
Always on the lookout to capture the invisible and intriguing, Oefner often uses iconic objects such as shoes, cameras, and scaled-down cars, and transforms them into unexpected moments by a process of disintegration, dissection, and encasement, to challenge our idea of reality and how we perceive these products.
When asked to elaborate on the recurring theme of ‘fragmentation’ in his works, Oefner says that he uses it to understand the reality around him clearly. “I first break or fragment objects down into their building blocks to then rearrange them into a new reality. To give you an analogy, it is like a chemist who analyses a certain substance by breaking it down to its basal chemical elements; only then can they alter the properties of that substance by rearranging the elements, and understanding them”.
Currently working and living in New York, he shares with us a glimpse of his next book series that highlights a few iconic German designs, starting with the Porsche 911, where its detailed scale model is embedded in (you guessed it right) resin and presented in a meticulously composed, Fabian Oefner style.
“As you browse through the pages, you get a completely different look on these familiar objects. The result is an intensified sense of space, dimensions, materiality, and time,” he says.