Virgil Abloh is known for pushing boundaries. The 38-year-old architect, DJ, engineer, university lecturer, artist, entrepreneur and artistic director at Louis Vuitton, has captivated an entire generation with his challenging methods of thinking and working. He uses his creativity to communicate socio-political messages and manages to lure us onto unfamiliar terrain with ideas that are often comprehended only in retrospect. “I believe that creativity doesn’t reside in just one discipline. There have been a number of figures within art or design who paved the way for this logic and way of thinking,” he says.
His latest collaboration with Vitra, called TWENTYTHIRTYFIVE, showcased at the Fire Station on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, sought to address home and living in 2035. The American architect, artist and designer also launched two products by Jean Prouvé and a new product as limited edition exhibition spin-offs.
At the focus of this artistic intervention by Abloh is the interaction between an adolescent and his home surroundings. On one hand, it looks at how the evolution of technology and changes in society might affect our homes. On the other hand, it addresses the degree to which our environment influences our life path, our tastes and the decisions we make over time.
As a child of Ghanaian parents who was raised in a Chicago suburb, Abloh succeeds in designing luxury fashion while simultaneously raising questions about its legitimacy. He scrutinises existing regulations and hierarchies, frames of reference and modes of interpretation. Any kind of collective heritage that falls into his hands – whether Renaissance painting or sneakers, Rem Koolhaas or Kim Kardashian – is ‘sampled’ or ‘hacked’, quoted or reinterpreted, optimised or altered, and thereby communicated to a new generation that increasingly looks to social media for information and information. “To me, design has the inherent idea of being a bridge from the past, with an eye towards the future,” explains Abloh, who was fascinated by the designs of Jean Prouve and had an interest in exploring the latter’s work from the outset.
It was pretty evident that the project would be targeted towards the emerging generation. According to Abloh, this generation is interested in a wide range of topics and does not regard art, architecture, music and fashion as separate disciplines, but finds pleasure in linking them together. Drawing on this idea, Abloh created a very personal ’residential biography‘ of a fictitious teenager from the year 2019, accompanying him into the year 2035.
The first section of the installation is titled Past/Present and portrays a seemingly arbitrary collection of furniture and other items – resembling a condensed assemblage of memories. It consists of physical objects, colours and materials, which are viewed through a filter that creates the atmosphere of a dream sequence. In this manner, the scene shows the diverse influences that take root in the long term memory of the teenager, and thus have a potential effect on his life at later points in time. The displayed objects – from the Petite Potence lamp and Antony armchair by Jean Prouve to designs by Charles and Ray Eames or Eero Aarnio, some in their original form, other creatively altered – might have come from the parents’ household furnishings, but could also have been collected from a playground, a classroom or a friend’s apartment.
The second section, Tomorrow, looks ahead to the year 2035 – just beyond the temporary horizon that we can currently envision, and shows the first own home of the now adult protagonist. “The teenager has become a creative ‘doer’ who transforms his memories and experiences, all of the cultural and social influences, into his own products, thereby finding a personal field of activity,” says Nora Felhbaum, CEO, Vitra. Important in this context are not only answers to the challenges of the future, but also bridges to the past, which are constructed by work methods for adopting, hacking and quoting familiar objects. The deja vu effect of this 2035 studio, which serves as a space for both living and working, generates a sense of trust and creates a firm ground upon which to stand in an era marked by disruptive developments.