American-born and Germany-based artist Mike Bouchet is known for taking familiar objects out of context, transforming them into something unexpected. This year at Design Miami/Basel, Bouchet presents a series of outdoor loungers made from shopping carts. The installation is on view at Cumulus, a studio that works with artists to create limited-edition functional objects for outdoor environments. We spoke with Bouchet about the new work.
Where did you get the idea to transform shopping carts into furniture?
I had a "borrowed" shopping cart in my studio, and a grinder, and the idea of turning it into a lawn chair jumped into my head like a flash. There was an almost unconscious urgency to the first one. I am an artist, not a designer per se, and I often transform the usual understanding or functionality of everyday objects into something different in my work — generally it's not quite as comfortable.
How were you able to take something that seems so uncomfortable (when I look at these, I have flashbacks to sitting in the front of the cart as a kid while my mom wheeled me around the grocery store) and make it appealing enough to sit in? Did you do a lot of testing to get the cushions just right?
The lawn chair design speaks for itself I'd have to say. I normally don't care if something is comfortable or not when I make art, but in this case the dimensions and particular springy feel of the chair, even without cushions, turned out to be very comfortable. An upholsterer made the cushions for them — he had a good sense of how much cushion to add, in order to maximize comfort and also keep the streamlined aesthetic of the chair itself intact.
What are some of the materials you're working with to make the cushions, and where do the patterns come from?
The patterns come from a number of sources — some are stains from my studio that were scanned. I had a sheet of particle board and a strip of asphalt photographed at 1:1 resolution. The fabric is printed at a custom outdoor fabric firm in LA. It is weather-proof, sun-proof, even chlorine-proof, and it doesn't make you sweaty when you are naked on it.
Are these available for purchase?
They are available for purchase — these are art editions, in fact, so there will only be a small number of them produced. Cumulus Studios can be contacted regarding the price.
Some of the designs seem funny to me — I think it's the combination of the shopping carts with beach towels and sun shades. Were you playing with references to some kitschy types of outdoor furniture and accessories — like koozies, vinyl patio cushions, etc?
A certain type of summer vacation aesthetic is now ubiquitous all over the world. I think this sunny notion of relaxing by the beach or pool has filled a very particular slot of our minds and our culture — I bought those T-shirts and beach towels at a very common store in the center of Germany, at least 1,000 kilometers from any ocean. I think it speaks volumes about our times.
I also felt that stretching a T-shirt over a chair and draping a towel across something to sit on is upholstering at its most elemental, and something we all have done many times since were small kids. Each chair comes with a different T-shirt and towel combination. I feel that they make an interesting contrast to the very detailed and precise upholstery work on the lawnchair cushions.
Thanks for speaking with us, Mike!