by Dilpreet BhullarJan 29, 2023
The design collective Objects of Common Interest—formed by Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampoukis—strives to redefine materiality to create still-life installations and experiential environments. The conceptually driven objects, when installed with a motive to bring forth tangible spatial experiences, are an invitation to gauge the hitherto unimaginable simplicity. The material in the hands of the designer-duo speaks an expression that is bound to its structural shape. Based in Greece and New York, the Objects of Common Interest finds inspiration that is rooted in two divergent continents—North America and Europe. Diversity is an opportune moment to weave "formal and intuitive" thinking in order to create the "experimental and the poetic" experience.
Petaloti and Trampoukis received their early academic education at Aristotle University in Greece and Ecole Supérieure d’Architecture de La Villette in Paris. Afterwards, they completed their master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University in New York. The rich Greek tradition rightly inculcated the desire to trace the cultural bearing through the objects created, while not losing the site of its contemporaneity. Despite the rising trends of technology, the dexterity required to make objects from the traditional material is achieved through craftsmanship. This is further made visible through the acute attention the designers lay to the delicacy of the material.
The practice of Objects of Common Interest largely develops from the tension between unchangeable solid forms and ephemeral materials. The duo has played with construction techniques to be able to manipulate materials. In an interview with STIR, Petaloti and Trampoukis discuss this core objective by citing the works Polymorph Cast Aluminium chair and Glossy Metamorphic Rock stool collection, "For the Polymorph Cast Aluminium chair, we were finally able to experiment with aluminium, something which we had wanted to do for some time. The form cast for the chair depicts a solid organic form, almost like a crater—yet the lightweight aluminium, its shiny surface in place of the rough texture would naturally change what this object is in the everyday into something ephemeral for this space.”
To the spectrum of still-life displays and furniture design pieces, Objects of Common Interest has added a Glossy Metamorphic Rock stool collection that is created by pouring soft gel into moulds. It culminates into semi-transparent sculptures that are soft to the touch. Additionally, as the light falls on them, they create an unforeseen aura of seamless beauty to behold. "It evokes a similar emotion—the quintessential of nature, i.e. hard, heavy and static gives way to something soft, malleable, colourful, and mobile through the choice to cast them out of technogel and placing them upon moving trays. Transforming it into a playful object which extends an invitation to touch and interact," mention Petaloti and Trampoukis.
Since the duo works with a variety of materials, it raises the curiosity of the viewers to understand how they reach a point of selection. Yet, many times, the exhibition space also offers a prospect to push them and select materials that they had never used before. This was realised in the exhibition, Domesticity at Large, where the space encouraged them to use aluminium. "For example, the acrylic light tubes were never cast at this height—it was a challenge to reach the desired height of over 4m, which the space allowed for,” inform Petaloti and Trampoukis, while adding, "but having worked with acrylic so many times it is a material whose limits we are familiar with and at this point, we are comfortable enough to know what we can achieve. On the other hand, the aluminium and the technogel material were both experiments yet they were both surprisingly forgiving when it came to what could be cast from them. Reflective, holographic materials are a favourite of ours as they distort our everyday reality and provide this sense of surrealism and playfulness which is a huge theme within our work."
In the words of Petaloti and Trampoukis, Domesticity at Large created “a scenographic environment of textural and formal ambiguity.” It emerged from their desire to reconfigure everyday domestic objects and their typical placements within space and completely transform a mundane scene into something almost futuristic. Towards this end, they created three Acts: Act I—chair in front of the mirror, Act II—light next to a chair, and Act III—seats around the table with a ceiling pendant. The three common scenes are found within the domestic spaces. However, by altering this series of objects through materiality, form, and scale, this understanding of the idea of domesticity turned nuanced. Activating a dialogue and interaction between user and object, which does not otherwise exist within these acts of living within the familiar setups of domestic life.
"The possibility to touch the pieces, to be surprised by what is discovered, the perception of colour, light and tactility within these objects,” is what Petaloti and Trampoukis hope to accomplish through their practice. The industrial quality of the objects at the first glance rather stems from the keen interest drawn to everyday beauty manifested in the found things. The randomness of the objects anchors an interest to develop art, which is both minimalist and surrealist. It is this evocative tendency to raise curiosity and wonder among the viewers that the duo intends to achieve through their work.