ANTIFURNITURE AT THE DESIGN MUSEUM IN LONDON
Russian-Brazilian performance artist Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich lands in the Design Museum in London with ANTIFURNITURE, a series of interactive sculptures that challenge our understanding of furniture design and our everyday understanding of comfort and fears. Visitors are invited to engage with these wooden displays scattered inside and outside the museum by climbing into a hammock, testing out a rocking desk, twisting in, and even scaling a ladder. As with every other work, the artist uses his own body to develop his performative concepts, finding inspiration in the human anatomy’s movements and limitations. Launched on September 26, 2023, the exhibition is open to the public until October 29, 2023.
image courtesy Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich uses his own body as a performance
For the ANTIFURNITURE collection, the artist replaces his body with the visitor’s as he invites them to become part of the performance. This visitor interaction eventually transforms the wooden objects into sculptures, thus creating a piece of personal theater for the users. Beyond that subversive use of furniture, Pavlov-Andreevich also explores a psychological dimension by triggering or tapping into unwanted emotions. ‘As you temporarily inhabit these sculptures by sitting, climbing, dangling, rocking, and lying, you are invited to reflect upon and confront your fears. Each sculpture represents one or more phobias, and through physical discomfort and purposeful endurance, we are forced to face our fears and challenged to overcome them,‘ writes Pavlov-Andreevich. Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich teamed up with BoND Architecture, Russian architect Olga Treivas, and fabrication studio Oficina São João in Brazil to bring his concept to life.
Rock-n-Desk| image © Ruy Teixeira
tapping into phobias and daily discomforts with antifurniture
Among the highlights in the ANTIFURNITURE series at the Design Museum is the Bunker-bed, which taps into scopophobia (the fear of being looked at or watched), sociophobia (fear of meeting someone new), and carcerophobia (the fear of prison). According to the artist, our typical impression of a bunker-bed is laced with a darker meaning: the two people sharing that furniture are either in prison, a refugee camp, or anywhere else deemed to be against their free will. ‘Aside from their carceral connotations, the bunks encourage the deep connection that comes from extended eye contact between two people, famously explored by Marina Abramović in The Artist Is Present (МоМА, 2010). The fear of the Other and of others is the reason why people cease to listen to each other—and why wars begin,’ he continues.
Bunker-bed | image © Ruy Teixeira
The Lord-of-the-Fishes comes in next and is inspired by two fears: anthropophobia, the fear of not being accepted, and algophobia, the fear of physical pain. Designed as a set of two chair-like sculptures, this object also echoes two types of discomfort: the first one looks at the excruciating experience of refugees forced to squeeze themselves into a migrant boat designed for 50 but regularly carrying 500. The second type is a more mundane yet mentally taxing discomfort: learning to adapt to more cramped spaces, like in airplanes, or moving into a tiny apartment to save on rent. ‘We are also forced to seek this pose of meekness, an avoidance of taking the space of others,’ the artist notes.
Procrustes | image © Ruy Teixeira
The artist continues exploring the bed archetype with Procrustes, a rocking sculpture designed to tap into claustrophobia and cleithrophobia (the fear of being trapped). On one level, the sculpture’s cramped structure is inspired by the bed of a mythical Greek character, Procrustes, which claimed the lives of wayward travelers who didn’t fit perfectly. On a deeper level, the rocking bed triggers our flight-or-fight response when exposed to daily catastrophes being broadcast on social media: during an earthquake, we shield our heads with our elbows; during a bombing, we lay in the bathtub; in the event of a water landing, we hug our knees, and so on. All these elements of modern safety choreography have become, according to Pavlov-Andreevich, as entrenched as the genetic mutations that program our every move.
Centipede | image © Ruy Teixeira
The Centipede and Rock-n-Desk are other amusing yet uncomfortable ANTIFURNITURE displays at the Design Museum. The former, a ladder-like structure, exposes the user’s acrophobia (fear of heights), haphephobia (fear of touch), futurophobia (fear of the future) while the latter, a rocking chair with hide-in holes, pair agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) with atychiphobia (fear of uncertainty), demophobia (fear of people and crowds), and gelotophobia (fear of being made fun of by other people). ‘When in danger, they cover their heads with protective helmets. Faced with the paparazzi, they shield their faces with their hands. (Ostriches even stick their heads in the sand.) All of these senseless movements are intuitive to our disoriented twins: homo confusum. Rock-n-Desk mimics a feeling of safety and security by rocking the fears to sleep,’ concludes the artist.