Trix + Robert Haussmann Retrospective Exhibition
I recently took another trip to the Nottingham Contemporary to wander round The Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule: A Retrospective exhibition by Trix and Robert Haussmann. The pair are said to be one of the most significant and intriguing Swiss architects and designers of the twentieth century. I second this; the exhibition celebrated the duo’s playful innovations, concerning illusion and ambiguity. The work presented their first-time solo exhibitions in the UK.
The duo often turn to historical models; their speculations blend diverse influences, from pop culture to technical techniques borrowed from 16th-century styles, such as the trompe l’oeil painting. Their work spans architecture, product design, installation, furniture and textiles. The Haussmann’s deal in what they have called ‘disturbed reality.’ They embrace irony and artifice. The duo have realised some 650 projects across Europe, from Zurich’s railways station to interiors for bars and fashion boutiques.
This exhibition bought together works from the last 50 years, such as adapted chairs from the 1960s, with maquettes, fragmented neoclassical pillars and recent mirrored works. Furniture morphs or malfunctions, becoming enigmatic and hybrid. The Haussmanns have described their mirrored work as a kind of ‘virtual reality’, saying, ‘with a mirror, you can destroy the real, enlarge it, change it.
’The exhibition design has been conceived by Caruso St John Architects – architects of Nottingham Contemporary’s RIBA Award-winning building. The presentation also includes several interventions by interventions by artists Liam Gillick and Karl Holmqvist, and Inside Outside / Petra Blaisse.
I enjoyed wandering around the exhibition, especially seeing some of the objects adapted from modern design classics such as Maso-Chair. The mirrors were also dedicated to a 17th-century Italian artist named Giovanni Battista Braccelli, who drew people made up of objects and once produced an alphabet out of human forms.
One of my favourite pieces was Lehrstucke (Didactic Pieces) which was based around ‘Critical Mannerisms. Each of these worlds is a kind of manifesto, demonstrating a particular motto. For example, one upends the Modernist view that ‘form follows function’, arguing instead that, ‘function follows form.’ Elsewhere, form is ‘disturbed’ by ornament or else malfunctions completely, as a chair merges with a musical instrument.
One of the focus points in the space is the Pillars. In 1980, the Haussmanns designed a menswear store for Weinberg in Zurich, influenced in part by Giorgio de Chirico’s surrealist paintings of mannequins and neoclassical places. The wooden pillars are decorated with trompe l’oeil painting.
I was also particularly drawn to a chair that seemed to melt into the floor, a neon stool that appears too fragile to be sat on and a trio of chairs woven together. I loved how experimental some of the designs were and was fascinated by the DIY algorithm for generating ideas that were laid out in sketchbook form. This is known as the Log-O-Rithmic Slide Rule, where the ‘concept-slider’ comprises two typewritten lists of 100 alphabetical keywords, giving a total of 10,000 possible combinations.
Always look out on the Nottingham Contemporary website for upcoming exhibitions. The showcases are free and are worth a visit if you are in the area. I really love the fact that they are constantly changing over displays, in order to portray some interesting and upcoming talent in all forms of art.