A Studio Conversation with

Alex Mirutziu

When I meet Alex Mirutziu in his studio at the Iaspis premises at Södermalm, he is about to leave for Romania the very next day. He has been in Stockholm on an Iaspis residency for a few months, a period of time that has made it possible for him to further explore the notions of form and design and how they can be connected to national branding. One of the projects Alex has been working on during his stay in Stockholm has resulted in a choreographic piece based on a typeface that is used as the global identity brand of Sweden. We talk about his way of dealing with form and the functionality of good art and design.

It’s hard to describe your work based on a medium as you seem to work with a broad range of expressions. What are you working on right now?
I have many projects going on in parallel, but at the moment I’m in the process of finishing the collaboration with Pär Andersson for But as a document, a video of a choreographic piece based on Sweden Sans – the global type of Sweden.

How did you come to work with the global graphical identity of Sweden? 
While in residence at Iaspis I came across a relatively new endeavor for the global brand identity of Sweden, created by the design agency Söderhavet. Designing for the government of Sweden also meant designing the type that best represented Sweden. So, Sweden Sans came up. It has been a difficult task, as ‘Sweden Sans’ is part of the new graphical identity reinstating the Swedish flag as the country’s primary identity bearer. According to its makers, it was brought about by the proportions of the Swedish flag, by the free space determined by the flag’s left-hand blue color field, to name just one of the radical thoughts that went into the making of this type. Söderhavet also took into consideration the Swedish term ”lagom”, meaning not too much and not too little, a concept which has a lot to do with good design and with Dieter Rams’ principles, which I love.

still from "but as a document" 2015 and the font Sweden Sans

still from ”but as a document” 2015 and the font Sweden Sans

Have you always been interested in graphic design? 
The politics of reading and writing have been part of my practice for a long time. Design and typography even more so. In Stockholm I got the chance to explore them further. There is so much care that goes into everything that has to do with this medium of expression, only to serve us and then retreat into the background. I paid attention to the way this paradoxical nature of texts affect our everyday life and opinions. It’s not only about the message but how the message is crafted and presented on the printed page. The manner in which your eyes move from left to right when reading for example, thus the dynamics of reading, or the adjustments of the body in space while reading. Everything helps in creating an opinion. Its not only what’s printed on paper or on the screen but also the way we read with our entire body.

How do you mean? 
But as a document is based on both the type Sweden Sans and texts by two outstanding authors Karl Larsson and Graham Foust. What needs to be clarified is that this type is not your ordinary type. It is conceived as part of the national brand of Sweden. The collated poem based on Larsson and Faust’s texts acts as a trigger or pretext. The dancer I worked with, Pär Andersson, and myself came with a different approach vis a vis text and the page. We used dance. All these were instruments to access something that is beyond metaphor and narratives. To overcome it. Reading is much more complex than we think, it involves the entire body, not only the eyes. Reading a text needs grand body adjustments and micro-adjustments. So there you have it. Accessing a layer of the text always present but never seen.

"The Finnish method" 2015 performance

”The Finnish method” 2015
performance

What is the difference between design and art according to you? 
Art addressees an unknown public, while good designers are working towards the identification of problems in society that sprung up in real life, only to thereafter try to resolve them and move on. Good design tries to simplify the world, to make it flow in a way to bring us closer to nature, while art, even though in its intent is closer to this system, nevertheless complicates things even more, mostly via metaphor. Metaphor as a device of transportation. It transports meaning from A to B. But what happens with the meaning which is suspended between these two points?

AM-studio

Do you see yourself working with design? Perhaps you don’t want to make these kinds of distinctions.
I like to think of myself as a gestalt engineer. Dieter Rams coined this term a while back. To be an artist makes me feel sometimes less responsible towards the environment, making me more egocentric, a thing that I despise. It encapsulates the drive I have in regards to my major concern, which is FORM. I also think that an artwork should entail different levels of functionality.

People rarely dare to talk about the fact that an artwork needs to function. 
If you look at any work of art, in my opinion you could claim that there are things that function and there are things that don’t. What I mean by this is that if the path to the “ahaaa!” is shorter, well formulated and clear, not the other way around. When it adheres quickly to your knowledge kit, then it has served a purpose. The suspension of meaning for example is not telling. I want the tellable. I’ve had enough of not telling. We don’t really have time anymore to just suspend. If you look at the state of the environment, you will understand what I mean. And art in my opinion has a lot to do with the environment, even when it says “nothing” about it.

"Where is the poem?" 2013 performance for one hand and prepared poem,  HD video, 9:49 min

”Where is the poem?” 2013
performance for one hand and prepared poem,
HD video, 9:49 min

Describe your working method
My practice is geared towards understanding where am I and what the word is made of. To clarify is important, especially the matter of presence. I want my works to function, so to speak, to intertwine into a relevant network of idea, to help build a climate for what is to come, because a work of art is never only a work of art, it is so much more than that.

How is this manifested in your performances? 
It manifests in the arrangements I make ad hoc and in the pre-planning. By the term arrangements I mean an assortment of principles on levels of abstraction but also a sense of poetry that is very often crafted and highly filtered. I end up with a situation that is a symptom of many theoretical aspects I feel close to. You might also say that the starting point is theoretical, and it has always been like this for me.

How do you relate to the concept of form? 
I am interested in FORM as a project. Objects as projects. The world of objects is quite uncanny since we find ourselves spending most of our time and energy resolving false problems. The problem of form is the problem of WHY against the WHAT. A good form is not interesting in itself. It is interesting as long as its presence in the world makes us think and approach the WHY. Is it really faster cars that we want, or better transportation? I think art has the same power.

The conversation between Alex Mirutziu and Olga Krzeszowiec Malmsten took place in Stockholm on April 26, 2015

Text: Olga Krzeszowiec Malmsten
Proof reading: Nicholas Lawrence
Photo: Jean-Baptiste Beranger, Alex Mirutziu

Name: Alex Miruziu
Born: 1981 in Sibiu, Romania
Based: Sibiu, Romania
Education: 2007-2009 University of Huddersfield, Great Britain; 2004 University of Fine Arts, Cuenca, Spain; 2000-2004 Art University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania
Info: In 2015 lecture and master class ”Reality Without Presence” at Bezalel, Tel Aviv and 2016 ”White cube and the black point” at MNAC, Bucharest
www.alexmirutziu.com
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