The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum presents a collaboration with the studio Objects of common interest (OOCI). The Greece and New York-based studio consists of Eleni Petaloti and Leonidas Trampouki and takes an intuitive approach to creating objects and spaces inspired by ‘moments of unknown simplicity’. OOCI is installed in the garden and the permanent installation on the first floor of the Noguchi Museum. TLmag chats with the studio to discuss his practice and current exhibition at the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and the Garden Museum.
TLmag: You started with Objects of Common Interest in 2015, how would you describe your group and how has your practice evolved since the beginning?
OOCI: We are trained architects who have worked in architecture, and still work in architecture with LOT desk for architecture. However, out of a need for experimentation and the need to materialize ideas on a smaller scale, we formed a second OOCI studio. We are the same people operating but under a different identity that allows us to reinvent and consider the way we think and the things we make. Overall, we would describe OOCI as a concept-driven studio. We do a lot of different things, of different aesthetics and scales, channeled by ideas, materiality, concepts not particularly fixed with something specific. We have underlying ideas that appear and disappear in our work but are subtle, unconstrained, and non-repetitive.
We have evolved by diversifying the subjects on which we work, by bringing everything that interests us, and we always work around a common to all projects and at all scales. At the moment, we have the exhibition at the Noguchi museum, we open our manufacturing studio for resin casting in Athens, publish a book about Noguchi and Greece with the museum and Atelier Editions, design furniture design companies and the LOT office for architecture. Evolution has therefore become diversification rather than specialization.
TLmag: How would you describe the story of the show “Objects of Common Interest: Hard, Soft, and All Lighted with Nowhere to Go”?
OOCI: The exhibition includes several of our works from the past few years, so this is the first time we’ve seen them together. It’s a story, not a design show. The story is not about our work but about Noguchi and how his work is seen through another lens, that of a contemporary designer whose way of thinking and creating matches Noguchi’s state of mind. . So we don’t necessarily follow Noguchi’s aesthetic or production, it’s more about being in the spherical realm of his multidisciplinary idea. We have installed objects in all the spaces of the museum, juxtaposed with the sculptures of Noguchi, in the galleries, the covered area and the garden, also integrated in the temporary exhibition of the museum entitled “Useless architecture”
TLmag: The exhibition is contextualized by the Noguchi museum, Noguchi once boldly said “I am not a designer”, is that a statement that you find in your practice?
OOCI: We are not trained designers, but trained architects who design. So, just as Noguchi said, what we do is not (necessarily) within the design. Yes, we design rooms, furniture, objects, practical stuff, but we are not motivated by that, to begin with. We are driven by ideas and concepts like the Noguchi Declaration. We believe that part of our work lies between the field and the disciplines, and at their scales. By working outside of labels, as Noguchi also asserted, there is a freedom of creativity that can lead to various things.
TLmag: Once, Noguchi mentioned that “all my works, paintings as well as sculptures, are conceived as fundamental problems of form which would best express the human and aesthetic activity involved with these objects”. . Could you clarify the use of the word “problems” and how do you involve it in your work?
OOCI: In architecture, a project begins with the “problems” you are trying to solve. In product design, the issues are practicality, economy, logistics as well as form and aesthetics. In all of the “middle ground” that we like to be involved with, nothing and everything is a problem at the same time. Perhaps the word “exercise” would be a better fit than the term “problem”, because there really isn’t a problem, to begin with. We believe that Noguchi operated in a similar fashion, being primarily driven as a sculptor and creator.
The garden and the permanent installation on the first floor of the Noguchi Museum from September 15, 2021 to February 13, 2022.
Photo Credit: Photo: Brian W. Ferry Artworks © Objects of Common Interest and © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum / Artists Rights Society