One of the first things that Tessa Koot tells me is that she doesn’t care about timeless design. “It could very well be, my design turns out to be a bad haircut from the eighties,” she writes. And with that pivotal idea in place, the body of her work instantly makes sense.
Happy Birthday Tessa and Lisa is a collaboration between furniture designer Tessa Koot and photographer Lisa Klappe for Dutch Design Week showcasing their “mutual love for the unwanted and the useless.” Along with Koot’s line of whimsically kitsch furniture that riffs on the discarded, the duo created a series of mostly distasteful, always dysfunctional, staged photographs. They’re snapshots of society at its most mundanely pitiful.
“My aim was to find balance in dysfunctionality,” Koot tells me. "I always got a lot of my inspiration from going to car boot sales. Somewhere along the way we rejected all this stuff, but if you really look at it from a makers’ point of view, without being arrogant 'taste-wise,' you can find the most amazing shapes and ideas.”
A faux granite couch is completed by a found panther poster. Everything looks like it’s a switch away from glowing under blacklight. But when you add a sad kid and a caged pet to the mix, some sort of nostalgic cultural alchemy occurs that’s unsettlingly brilliant.
“I told Lisa about this idea of a dysfunctional family, and she immediately could find herself in my story,” Koot explains. “We share the same taste for finding an edge in our work. So it was quite easy to start putting the artwork together.”
Easy? In this day and age, is it really easy to photograph, say, a baby smoking? How do you pull that stunt off?
“Turn your head for a minute, let the assertive photographer take her shot, then make your apology to the parents for not paying attention to their child,” she says, “and finally you buy the parents a bottle of wine so you can use this 'money-shot’ for your presentation.”
I love it. Just like the rest of Koot’s project, her explanation is an ode to bad taste.
[Hat tip: We Heart UK]