Cultured Magazine

December 2011

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behind the curtain The new show at the Wolfsonian-FIU,"Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," is a celebration of all things French and highly designed—just like its co-curators M/M (Paris)' Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag. BY JULIA COOKE The convex screen of a small, space-age-style television, designed by Roger Tallon in 1963, looks as if it just might hold the sixties inside its now-black screen. This is Mathias Augustyniak's favorite piece in the exhibit of French design objects—"Liberty, Equality and Fraternity," now showing at the Wolfsonian-FIU—that he co-curated. "It's a completely obsolete TV but it still has a mesmerizing quality," says Augustyniak, of the French graphic design and creative direction part- nership M/M (Paris); the other 'M' is his partner, Michael Amzalag. "It died happily. It consumed itself by inspiring many different people." The show gathers approximately 150 such objects from Centre na- cional des art plastiques and includes furniture, craft and industrial design by the likes of Roger Tallon, Philipe Starck, Pierre Paulin, the Bouroullec brothers and more. The installation design, a collaboration of M/M (Paris) with designer Matali Crasset and curator Alexandra Midal, uses a system of red, white and blue plinths, based on Le Corbusier's Modulor measuring scale, which can be used as stools, exhibition pedestals—or even to chop wood, says Augustyniak. Together, the objects and context shows how the country's design reflects not only the history of France through its artifacts, but also the idealism of the ages in which they were created. "In France, design is really linked to how society has evolved intellec- 90 CULTURED tually and politically," says Augustyniak. "Someone like Roger Tallon didn't just design for the sake of decorating the world; I think, when he was de- signing, he thought he would change the world." Given that the M/M (Paris) exists at a particularly unique crossroads of design, art and commerceRoger , the duo's involvement in the show is particularly apt. Augustyniak and Amzalag talk about their work with the communicative focus of the commercial—Augustyniak has been quoted as saying, "this isn't an egotistical practice, all about expressing ourselves."— but they also bring the creativity of the artist to the working table. The two are hardly mutually exclusive, says Augustyniak: "The world today is a commercial world. We really strongly believe in the idea of art, but we had to find a way to articulate that to the world in which we live in and not say, '[commerce] doesn't really matter.' For me art is not an object but an active process." The results of that process have spanned genres and scales over the course of the nearly 20 years that Amzalag and Augustyniak have worked together. M/M (Paris)'s work spans not only graphic design and art, but also delves into music, fashion, and publishing. A playfully intellectual beat underlies the concepts for objects and projects that will likely die happy deaths themselves. Take the Tokyo Palace typeface, originally developed to give the Palais du Tokyo contemporary art space a unifying identity, for example; after its retirement in 2006, it appeared on M/M (Paris)'s web- site, available for free downloading and use.

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