This summer the historic Neutra VDL Studio and Residences in Silver Lake will become the home of the Paris and Berlin-based design studio BLESS (Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag) in a project curated by Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath. Responding to the unique architectural environment of Richard Neutra’s Los Angeles home and work space, BLESS will bring their own contemporary design ethos to this icon of Californian mid-century modernism. Living and working separately in Paris and Berlin, this project will bring the two designers and their families together in the same place for the first time for an extended residency. In a project that will be equal parts installation, artist residency and model home for alternative ways of living, BLESS will transform the Neutra VDL House into a design laboratory and a site of conviviality. Originally known as designers of wearable fashion, BLESS has spent many years exploring unusual design solutions for everyday life. They have defined their own personal take on the design profession by developing unique motivating concepts such as “stylefree,” “themelessness,” and “design relativators” all of which underscore their iconoclastic approach to design and their commitment to opening our eyes to fresh perspectives on contemporary living. Contrary to the dictates of the fashion industry, BLESS takes a stand against the desire for fast fashion by creating a timeless wardrobe of their own everyday classics which are made available every season. More recently BLESS began to define how they themselves would like to live and work in projects such as BLESS N°56 Worker´s Delight in which they playfully reimagined our relationship to the stultifying dictates of contemporary office life with design innovations such as a computer keyboard that has been replaced by punching bags. In their minds, the ultimate BLESS product is their own highly adaptable and hybrid design practice which escapes any kind of predefined category as it tunes into the present moment and its ever-changing circumstances. In the end, BLESS doesn´t serve any market but follows strict personal needs.
BLESS No. 63 Neutra Dasein (“Dasein” being the German word for “being”), follows in the footsteps of Worker´s Delight and will include several architectural and design interventions into Neutra’s house that will mesh the architect’s ideas about health and modern living with their own philosophical take on living in the present moment. Looking at the optimistic architectural vision that was offered by Neutra’s modernism and reinterpreting it through their own contemporary lens, BLESS will investigate and expand on the architect’s ideas about the house as a therapeutic structure. The project’s name, Neutra Dasein, flows naturally from the influencing presence of Neutra’s work and his approach to design which valued architecture’s psychological support of the human being over its outward appearance. BLESS shares this outlook in their work.
For this project BLESS is collaborating with the textile manufacturer Kvadrat and VS, the current manufacturer of Neutra’s original furniture designs, in order to “dress” the VDL House with textile interventions and new BLESS-ified versions of Neutra’s furniture. These new experiments will be shown alongside existing BLESS designs such as their classic N°56 Carpethammock, N°56 Neckrestdesk, a massage chair that can also be used to read and work in different positions, and N°60 Chairwear B fur, a series of stools that double as furniture pets.
As much a residency and workshop as a design installation, the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences will become a social space where the public will be invited to spend time exploring and participating in BLESS N°63 Neutra Dasein, interacting with the designers and their cohorts from many different creative fields including industrial design, literature, film, architecture, health, food, sport and contemporary art. The project will be accompanied by a salon program and workshops devoted to questions of design in relationship to the challenges of living in our contemporary world. This interactive public aspect of the project is a fundamental motivating philosophy of BLESS. The schedule of events will be announced in the coming weeks.
Founded in 1997 by Desirée Heiss and Ines Kaag, Paris and Berlin-based BLESS is best described as a platform of creation. BLESS create products and situations that connect people to their surroundings and atmospheres in the celebration of Jetztzeit, a term that the critic Walter Benjamin used to describe the potential of truly embracing the possibilities of the temporal present – a revolutionary “now” – filled with energy and possibilities of connecting to an imagined better future. Their works span the realms of fashion, visual arts, sports, design, social activities and architecture.
BLESS has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions devoted to both art and fashion in institutions worldwide including the Berlin Biennale (1999), Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (2000), Manifesta 4 in Frankfurt (2002), Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm (2006), Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (2006), Villa Noailles in Hyères (2007), Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (2007), Kunsthaus Graz (2010), Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2012), MAK–Austrian Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna (2013), Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein (2014), Centre Pompidou Metz (2014), Schinkel Pavilion in Berlin (2016), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2017) and the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2017).
BLESS has produced two monographs devoted to their practice which were published by Sternberg Press. BLESS: Celebrating 10 Years of Themelessness, No. 00–No. 29 and BLESS: Retroperspective Home, No. 30–No.41.
Douglas Fogle spent over twenty years as a curator of contemporary art at Walker Art Center, Carnegie Museum of Art and the Hammer Museum. In 2012, he joined forces with independent curator Hanneke Skerath to open the curatorial office STUDIO LBV in Los Angeles. Together they curate exhibitions, organize talks, and produce publications.
This project has been made possible by the generous support of Chara Schreyer and Gordon
Freund, HGA, Alisa and Kevin Ratner, Mark Grotjahn, Laura Donnelly, Good Works Foundation,
Johnston Marklee, Dori and Charles Mostov, Sylvia Rhone, Sybille Duerkop, Nayla Audi,
Mameg, J.K. Brown and Eric Diefenbach, David Kordansky Gallery, Greene Naftali, Tanya
Bonakdar, Jeff and Marla Michaels, Stephen and Dana Sigoloff, Chan Luu, and Kathi Cypres.
In-kind support has been provided by Kvadrat and VS America.
Organizational support has been provided by Blum and Poe Gallery, the Los Angeles Forum for
Architecture and Urban Design, and by the Neutra VDL Research House under the directorship of Sarah Lorenzen.
Photography by David Hartwell.