Specialising in the design of footwear, interior accessories and performance, Eelko Moorer’s work finds a balance between the descriptive aspect of art and the process, context and prescriptive elements of design. We caught up with him in his Stoke Newington Studio on the eve of the launch of his commission for the ‘Waste Not Want It’ initiative at Bloomberg.
Eelko, it seems that what you essentially deal in is aesthetics. Is it the idea of an object, more than the object per se, that you are creating or describing?
Absolutely. I find aesthetics very undervalued at the moment and an interesting area. Quite a few pieces of mine are very different when you experience them than when you just look at them. The idea is to make something which causes you to act or think. For example my pieces with the hairs coming out, the ‘Jungle Vase’ and ‘Jungle Groove’ installation in Milan made of swings, vines and suspended objects are quite uncanny. What’s important I think with any of the objects I make is attempting to invoke an aesthetic response in the viewer. A sense of simultaneous attraction and repulsion.
Is there some sense of Burke’s sublime focussing on the physiological effects on the viewer, in particular the dual emotional quality of fear and attraction?
Yes, somewhat. You want to touch it and simultaneously run away. With many objects I’m looking for classical proportions but then I’m unsettling that. Classical symmetry is beautiful but with my use of materials and surfaces there is also a sense of horror. This is evident in the animations of hair that run through screens set into the low benches I made for the Bloomberg ‘Waste Not Want It’ commission. The idea of sitting on a sitting on a living breathing animal is there.
What’s your fascination with hair, it seems excuse the pun, to crop up a lot?
I find it gross. And much of my work is animalistic. In all my work there is a fascination with desires, associations, dreams …… a sense of exoticism and fantasy. I think hair is interesting in terms of its associations as well as its for potential in terms of print and mark making. It is also a sculptural material. Black hair is for instance very sculptural to work with.
You talk about Basquiat, animalism, voodoo, and Atis Rezistans as influences. Can you tell us a bit more?
There has been a change in the way I work, although largely using the same associations and techniques my previous work was quite contrived and controlled. I think I am becoming more loose which is where Basquiat comes into it. The collective Atis Rezistans working in Port au Prince take and transform the detritus of Haiti’s failing economy into sculpture, creating survivalist recycling out of necessity, but with an allegorical dimension. There is also always something exotic about what I do and a melding or juxtaposition of ideas. In the same way voodoo is a syncretic religion, that is it combines seemingly contradictory beliefs, which is what my practise often attempts to do or to ask the audience to think about when they experience a piece.
A lot of people will know your work in terms of the shoes you have designed, which seem to be about structure and support and the understanding of that in relation to the human body and how we think about it. The works at Bloomberg are also about structure and support, you talk about the importance of having different surfaces to either sit on or lean upon but in a controlled way. Do you actively think about structure, support and the lack of it when you design?
That’s the idea yes, you can either lean or balance on the uprights of the seats at Bloomberg, they don’t actually provide support. Two areas of my work which I’ve done alot with explore these ideas – the use of rubberised materials and of course the shoes, the most extreme is the shoes – but for Bloomberg I wanted to make a combination of these. Making pieces which are in proportion but also out of proportion. Minimal but not in terms of the surface treatment and materials. Rubber repels and attracts, very much like skin when you touch it. It reminds me of toys, things that are mass produced, but its also a way of perverting something – childish but also hard core fetishism. A vase which drops breaks whereas as rubber vase just bounces, it takes away its original function. Again coming back to the idea of the object as important.