Page 6 of 6

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:54 am
by germinal

Ines: Hallo?

- Hi! How are you?
Desiree: Good!

- It's been quite a long time since we last spoke!
Desiree: Yes, that's true...

- Sorry for the delay, I was at the printer's today... Do you remember MASTERPIECE, the publication containing interviews via Skype?
Ines: Of course we do.

- So, today was finally the day... I'll send you both a copy as soon as I get them.
Desiree: Great...

- Our last interview was pretty long but today it will be something brief. I'm working with the pictures I took at your show and I would like to round it off with some words about the concept surrounding your collection, its title Know Howowow and also about your know-how.

- Is it ok? Does it make any sense?
Desiree: Yes of course.

- How did you decide to choose this title for your latest collection?
Ines: We have no idea, it just came up like this. As it often happens, the title is just...the title. As our first book Celebrating 10 Years of Themelessness already tried to state, our titles are not so much about specific contents, tasks or themes behind them, they simply work as mere titles.

- So you are not talking about being adroit or trying to address any issue on production...
Desiree: No, because the real title is Know Howowow so it's a bit of a silly title. Of course know-how is about knowing how to do something, how to produce it, the savoir-faire. But if you translate Know Howowow literally it would be something related to knowing how to surprise someone, knowing how to create a wow effect. Know Howowow may even sound like the way a child imitates a dog: bow wow. I guess the truth is that we know how to create that effect but at the same time we cannot really take it 100% serious, so that's maybe what this title is about.

- And do you remember when you decided to make your presentation that way, with all the fine arts students making drawings?
Desiree: This again, has nothing to do with the title. It's like everything surrounding BLESS, most of the times things are not related, they come along but we like them and we file them up. They are like small pearls, somehow they belong together because they are all in one chain but originally every pearl was found in a different place. So in this case, we came up with this distorted title, we had to love it and we decided it was our title, and then the idea about the drawings was another isolated idea we came up with when we were thinking about the lookbook. We were quite bored of showing pictures, pictures and more pictures, and we thought it could be nice to have this drawn feedback about the collection. So we decided to bring in some art and fashion students to the presentation in that townhouse in Paris, in order to draw the models in detail and then depict our collection only through these drawings.

- Ok, I guess I was asking you about the know-how because I feel many designers are talking abour the lack of quality or the problems they are facing in order to achieve that quality they want for their products. Is it something that worries you? I know you produce your collections in Italy, Germany...
Ines: Yeah, we produce our things in many places, we even produce in China, but only the shoes and the very fine knitwear. Anyway, I'm not sure if you're asking us about the issues we have to deal with when we work with certain suppliers...

-Yes, I was thinking about many brands or designers who don't have a big production volume and the Chinese market can be pretty hard for them. It seems quite difficult to find the right balance between good quality and fair prices...
Desiree: Yeah, you're totally right, but even for people whose volume of production is quite remarkable, these problems are still there. I think production is always the weakest point for a designer, and the most annoying one as well. It's always so difficult to meet your own personal quality expectations... There's always some disappointment: the samples look good and soon afterwards the process moves forward and it does not look good anymore, so you have to cancel items... I think it has always been a problem and it will always be, because whatever you do, no matter if it's clothes, furniture, whatever, this tricky part is always there. I'm afraid this slippery step in order to make a product exist, will always be there...

- So you really keep this step in mind when designing or you try to design in a free state of mind?
Ines: Well, as a designer you always have to deal with how to turn your ideas into something real, and in this process there is always this fight between compromising yourself or not. Anyway, in our case production used to be a more difficult step. There, maybe we come again to the know-how. I mean, it is all about knowing how production works. And we've tried hard and we have succeeded in facing production from different perspectives and working with many different people, from collaborating with other brands to working with different companies for our own work. The better you know the context the easier it gets... [pauses] For example we have said goodbye to the company in Italy we were working with, because it was easier before and now everything became more difficult there. Producing in Italy doesn't makes sense for us anymore...

- Is there any country in which you find things are easier?
Desiree: It is not so much about finding the best company, there are good manufacturing companies in many countries.
Ines: It depends on the product too.
Desiree: Yeah, it definitely depends on the product but it is also about the personal relationship you build with a company, and about finding the right partner who understands your needs, what kind of product you want, what's important to you... That partner should be flexible enough to meet your expectations too... [pauses] So, it's really difficult to say Portugal is the best country or Italy is the best one, because for example, we've been searching new production places in Italy and we've seen everything, from ultra-cheap companies full of Chinese workers, to handicraft companies, so... It is not about the country, it is about finding the right partner, like everything in life! [laughs]
Ines: It also depends on your mentality as a designer, if you're willing to collaborate in a very intimate way, if you want to keep it more anonymous which would mean you need a lot of professionalism in order to keep a good production relationship... It totally depends on your view as a designer. It is some sort of know-how, again, a designer must have, the designer needs to carefully select a production place and to build up a relationship. And this takes a lot of time...

- I don't know if there is something else you want to say about your collection or something you want me to ask you...
Ines: [laughs] What do you want to know about?
Desiree: Did you see the presentation in Paris?

- Yes...
Desiree: Did it work well? It's important for us to know if people are able to get any information from a BLESS presentation. Were you able to see the clothes properly?

- I guess it's clearer in the usual lookbook but the presentation was amazing, it created a whole environment, a certain atmosphere, everything had this BLESS spirit... I was impressed by all these things and also by the clothes of course, but I remember a certain moment in which one of the models went out to light a cigarette. And it was the first time I got to see the coat she was wearing and it was that wow effect you were talking about, it was incredible...
Desiree: Cool... [laughs]

- I thought it was great, the place was great, the presentation was great... And I think they're always fantastic!
Desiree: That's nice...
Ines: Thank you!

- You're welcome. Anyway, I don't want to take up all your time. I'm going to make a layout with the images and this text, and then send it back to you...
Ines: Great and then maybe we can add other ideas.
Desiree: Yeah, good.

- So thank you and have a nice day!
Desiree: Ok, you too! Bye-bye!
Ines: You too, bye!

From many of them vol ii

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2015 10:35 am
by germinal


This is a recipe I have modified a bit. The original recipe calls for chocolate chips and I have used sour cherries today which taste great! I rub the pan with salted butter and use sea salt instead of regular salt for a bit more contrast.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9 inch pan. Set it aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Set it aside. In a bowl with an electric mixer or hands which I do, cream the butter until it's light and creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugars and mix well. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing them well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Remove 1/4 cup of the flour mixture and toss it with the chocolate chips in a separate bowl. This keeps the chips from sinking to the bottom of he cake. Set it aside. Add the remaining flour mixture alternately with the sour cream in three stages, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix in the heavy cream. Stir in the chocolate chip mixture or fruits if you are substituting them instead. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake the cake for 55 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.


Perfect side salads for grilled mushrooms, paprikas, tofu sausages, halloumi and green zucchinis, like we prepared for the presentation. Regarding the amount of ingredients, I have accounted for about 4 people, but it's kind of fuzzy and I didn't mention an amount on all of it. I guess the charm of it is that it's up to oneself! It doesn't really matter, to be honest. If you like more of something you increase the amounts.


1 kilo of beetroots
300-400 grams of chèvre
Liquid Honey
Olive oil for frying
Sea salt

Turn the oven on at 225 degrees. Peel and chop the beetroots in cloves and put them on an oven tray. Pour some olive oil on the beetroots and fry them in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes. Put them in a big bowl together with walnuts and chopped pieces of chèvre. Stir it all around, sprinkle some sea salt and pour some honey on top.


1 kilo fresh potatoes
A jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil
Olive oil
Rosemary black pepper
Sea salt

Boil the potatoes until they are soft. Cut them in half and put them in a big bowl. Cut the sun dried tomatoes in small pieces and put them together with the potatoes. Pour some olive oil over the potatoes, a hint of black pepper, and sprinkle a large amount of rosemary and sea salt on top.

from many of them vol iii

We made these recipes last year and they're all really good! I don't have a picture of the cake but here're the salads (plus some roasted veg)


Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Tue Jun 16, 2015 11:46 am
by germinal
Well it has been nearly a year since I last did one of these, which I regret--with the death of and a lot of information about BLESS and many others has been lost to us, perhaps forever. Nevertheless


N°16 Shoe Escorts




Handknitted leather shoes co-produced by Eram. They were displayed in Collette on Madame Tussauds waxworks (Queen Mary, Barbara Cartland, Cher)


An escort service is provided through other other collaborating materials.

The escorts are in fact accompanying 'legs' made of trouser or stocking fabrics.

# 42/50
for Asuway Trading, Hongkong

# 34/50
for Points de Suspension

# 32/50
for Asuway Trading, Hongkong

# 47/50
for Bless Shop, Europe

# 22/50
for Plaquesearch, Japan

# 45/50
for Colette, France

# 41/50
for Fashion Core Midwest, Japan

# 01/50
for Diptrics, Japan

# 31/50
for Bless Shop, Europe

# 33/50
for Points de Suspension, Japan

# 12/50
for Ausway Trading, Hong Kong

# 17/50
for Points de Suspension, Japan

# 20/50
for Mirriam, Japan

Packaging for Shoe Escorts

status: sold out

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2015 11:45 am
by vgtbls
I dug out a few pictures from when I visited the Bless Home last summer. I've found they make nice phone wallpapers. Here they are if you're into that sort of thing.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 2:19 pm
by schiaparelli
(slightly NSFW, please be advised)


"sleeping room"


"pierre sleeping"



really love the kind of sleepy, dreamlike, delicately jumbled quality of these prints. there are odd collections of things and the detritus of everyday life in the photographs, wrapping around the front and back. alcohol bottles on the windowsill. a tiny personal robot tilted over on the floor. very fascinating. also, base range knits are so so so so so so soft and cozy. this is a really quietly wonderful collaboration because the bless photography works so well with the general base range ethos of relaxedness and coziness and an intimate familiarity.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 8:58 am
by germinal
Going to post some of the essays from the first BLESS book, Celebrating 10 Years of Themelessness, seeing as it is now unavailable to purchase.

Bless Recent History

Is it still possible to understand the course of today's fashion produced in Paris, Milan, New York or London by hundreds of brands and designers? We have undoubtedly surpassed the critical point beyond which fashion is nothing more than a business among other businesses, a chaotic economy of antagonistic styles delivering an impression of unreality and growing confusion season by season. Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag, Bless' two founders, are children of a banal catastrophe that reproduces itself every season. They belong to an alternative generation that, according to the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, was the first to develop an 'expert attitude in regard to the potential of the catastrophe which surrounded us', which they thereby react to and reflect upon. In 1990 Martin Margiela had a vision of this catastrophe and plunged back into the history of fashion.

Bless Vienna 1995
Bless is the result of an encounter between two German students. Desiree was studying in Vienna and had been noticed by Helmut Lang, and Ines was studying in Hamburg, Jil Sander's bastion city. Together they created the label in 1995 with one initial refusal: never to become fashion designers. They are not attracted to the model of success, the professionalisation of the trade and the image associated with the new wave of successful Belgian designers in 1994-95. They ignore prescriptive marketing constraints and they reject the idea of having to produce a new collection every six months, They want to discover their own method, a way of working autonomously that is based on an analysis of their context and the fashion system while staying faithful to their sensibilities. The first attempt took place in Vienna: tops made of transparent bands of gauze entitled 'Sun Tops'. Although inspired by Helmut Lang, its originality lies in their decision to concentrate on a single 'product' from its conception to the manner in which it is advertised, A crude poster alerted passers-by with the designers; telephone number and the name of a fictitious woman: 'Bless can be contacted personally by phone. Everything except sex is available by request'. This was their manner of destroying the myth of the inaccessible and glamorous fashion designer on the streets of Vienna. Bless' history had begun.

Bless GBR Berlin
The following summer, in 1996, they launched their first exclusive product. BLESS N°00 was a limited edition wig made of real fur accompanied by a magazine advert declaring: 'Fits every style! Cut & try'. Through direct contact with the public, Bless' advertising not only promoted a product, but also formed an image to support their vision, a visual manifestation of their taste (Bless taste). Ines and Desiree expected many calls, but there were only two responses: from Sarah at Colette, the future Parisian concept shop that had yet to open its doors, and while presenting an edition of Furwigs in Paris, they met Patrick Scallon, who turned out to be from Masion Martin Margiela. This meeting resulted in an order for forty pieces for Margiela's A/W 97/98 collection, twinned with his coats made of recycled furs. They were an instant success. Ines moved to Berlin, where Bless was registered as a company and Desiree relocated to Paris. Work had begun in earnest.

Bless Extends the Fashion Domain
This success exposed Ines and Desiree to the rick of being labelled accessory designers. Their strategy: permanent experimentation. No collections, just a rhythm of four new designs per year produced as limited editions in order to better control the creative process. And a refusal to focus on one discipline. Bless will slide from one domain to another: from fashion to beauty, interior decoration to art exhibition, collaborations with other brands to stylised advertising. Bless entered into a mode of systematic and autonomous production. For example: BLESS N°01, Bootsocks, denim accessories for shoes. BLESS N°02, Disposable T-shirts sold in packs of three. And BLESS N°03, Set, a piece of clothing that can be worn on any part of the body in any manner, a product that is self-consciously non-commercial and irritating. BLESS N°04, a line of 'Bags' conceived as a combination of multifunctional sack/clothing. Or again BLESS N°07, a range of textiles for interior decoration entitled Living-Room Conquerors linking the notion of furniture to apparel. Meanwhile, two new departments were created: Bless beauty-products that invented the idea of 'wearable make up' and Bless advanced, open to collaboration with other designers. Thus, from product to product, Bless works to extend the fashion domain by coupling it with design, decoration and general sense of the everyday, and by limiting it with functionality and abstraction.

Bless Strategy
Bless has always avoided the idea of presenting collections in fashion shows. This purely promotional performance, a window for the press, does not necessarily have much to do with the products that are finally distributed in shops. In fact, Bless begins its work where a lot of other designers finish or betray theirs: with the 'product' as an autonomous fashion item with its own principles and liberty. This refusal of the collection as 'the brand's image' characterized the first collection of clothing, BLESS N°09, which was conceived as a pure operation in marketing: Bless Merchandising. All their clothing deliberately lacks style. Formless or informal, T-shirts, sweatshirts and long scarves serve an ironic advertising basis for a proliferation of embroidered Bless logos and computerized portraits of designers. It is their manner of denouncing the marketing system and attempting to avoid it by coupling the idea of fashion with that of advertising, from clothing to the promoted object. Imagine a Chanel purse that's really only a portable form used to promote the Chanel logo.

Bless Revolution
Bless products involve you. They oblige you to participate in their creation, but in the sense of identifying with Bless as you might with the style of another designer. Their items demand rather that you resolve the personal equation in your own way. It's up to you to decide how to wear them, how to interpret them, what exactly to do with them. Bless products are non-identifiable objects, un-labelled, never pret-a-porter or ready-to-consume. Bless does not work on style, on the form given to a function (the article of clothing or accessory), but on the distributed functions of the form. Bless reverses the relationship to style. Instead of going from the function towards a new form, Bless goes from form towards hypothetical functions or potentials. In this way each Bless product is a singular experience in fashion that deprives the consumer of all references, previous codes and other forms of assistance. It is an abstract and intimate experience that obliges you to fend for yourself with attire whose stylistic degree is at zero. The Set (BLESS N°03) is the most brilliant example of a pure vestimentary form removed from the normative, conventional experience of clothing. A form made of transparent tulle upon which are grafted various materials, such as a strip of leather, embroidered sequins, a zipper or a magnet. It's up to each individual to find the best manner of displaying the clothing on his or her body. This is not meant to discourage fans but to incite them to develop their own manner of wearing clothing: 'Help yourself'.

Bless after Margiela
'Fits every style', 'Fucks up every style!' or again 'Corrupts every style! Relax'. Bless incites with a Barbara Kruger-like tone and ridicules the current imperative of style as personal identity and difference. Bless strives to avoid promotion of a particular style in its 'products' according to an aesthetic of neutrality, anonymity and collectivity. This refusal to embrace style runs throughout a variety of anti-design strategies: by recycling found objects, for example with BLESS N°08 Found Object Unlimited or in realizing a collection based directly on sponsors' collections with BLESS N°10. In a attempt to corrupt and leech off other styles, they created scarves that were cut directly from clothes supplied by Carrefour, Levi's, H&M, Savoye Cashmere, Mandarina Duck etc. It is their way of abolishing all systems of social distinction maintained by the brand and its presumed status: 'The scarf is the essence of a former outfit. Its specific style is found through the combination (Bless taste) of different brands, regardless of price, social background, age and other distinctions'.

Bless Politics
'Bless works against mass individuality and its hidden danger, i.e. fashion overkill'. It is necessary to comprehend that Bless is not anti-fashion, but turns fashion into an unmarked subjective space that is no-stereotypical and outside the system of established codes. This denial of style as a personal choice liberates the wearer and directly attacks fashion's contemporary individualism as the ultimate form of the market and consumption. For Bless modifies not your style, but your relationship with fashion in order to release you from your fears and inhibitions when faced with the absence of guidelines. 'Wear don't care'.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 1:47 pm
by germinal
The Blessings of Elegance

There is a wonderful photograph of Coco Chanel taken in 1924 at a horse race in Chester. It was cool that day, so Chanel borrowed a polo coat from her lover, the Duke of Westminster, and loosely belted it up high around her waist. A fine handkerchief wilted in the breast pocket, a short scarf rested on her right shoulder and a long white string of pearls dangled from the forty-something fashion designer's neck. More than eighty years later, the proud woman next to the gentleman with his close-fitting suede gloves still looks classically elegant.

The photograph shows how the classical is created. The simple and pragmatic consequence of subjecting one gentleman's coat (of the most exquisite fabric, of course; the Duke was after all one of the richest men in England) to feminine treatment with a plain belt is a modern as it is traditional. 'Fashion fades, style does not', was one of Chanel's favourite sayings and it echoes the ability of all great designers to transcend the vagaries of the moment by creating a presence that defines an age and not just a season.

The impact that Chanel made, rested, as she said herself, on the fact that she was 'of my time' and recognised the importance of 'doing the right thing at the right time'. Which brings us to Bless. Since the beginnings in 1994, Bless has always been avant-garde and classical in their uncompromisingly radical approach. The matter-of-fact rigidity of the designs, their modernist, analytical gaze and gesture, their witty minimalism and lean aestheticism reveal Bless to be a laboratory of new ideas that aspire to eternity.

But unlike Coco Chanel, Helmut Lang or Rei Kawakubo, their aspirations do not embrace the grand gesture found in the total look that was the hallmark of all the great fashion designers of the twentieth century. 'A lot of our products are accessories or just parts that can be added to an existing style because we have never been interested in a total look', Desiree Heiss explains in an interview. 'Our clothing has no importance in itself; it adjusts to its surroundings ... You can make modifications by having something disappear or adding something else or just by taking a different approach.'

Bless' modesty is a trap. Their products manage to redefine everything in their vicinity. The poetry of Bless accessories such as necklaces of jeans socks contaminates even the most functionalist understatement of the other items. Bless is like a spice that can (but does not have to) dominate and entire meal.

Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag met in 1993 at a competition for fashion students in Paris. Two years later they launched their first Bless collection by plastering posters of their designs all over Vienna and Berlin. the following year they came up with BLESS N°00, a fur wig in an edition of ninety-three. Since hen, Bless has continued to number and elaborate on the subject matter of their collections and the symbols of their things, also on and in the window of their Berlin Bless Shop on Mulackstrasse.

From the very first objects and accessories, it was obvious that the fashion world merely served as a launching pad for Bless' expeditions into the realm of the undefined. With a playfulness that can only come from taking things seriously, they dug into their own ideas and visions, exploring the interface with design, architecture and the essence of social sculpture.

Bless was a project in which experimenting with the consumption of ideas and conventions that were yet to be established became and act of elegance. Bless created an intellectual form of elegance, embodied in materialised fashion objects and attendant attitudes, capable of changing the world.

Wearers of Bless herald the elegance of the future. But Bless fashions are also the distilled substrate of the social and historical context to which both designers refer. In addition to the history of classical fashions, above all they address a mix of synthetic subculture. The recipe was a generous dollop of hip-hop (with proud b-boys and sexy fly-girls), the glamour of post-grunge-indie, the matter-of-fact asceticism of the Berlin School, its exponents citing or wearing all the low-key designs from Margiela and Comme des Garcons to Demeulemeester in clubs like the WMF, the Cookies, Tresor and later Pogo. By the end of the nineties the so-called 'Mitte-look' had emerged in Berlin, spreading to clubs as well as fashion academies, art schools, galleries and the broader context of Bohemia. if you think of the village structures that characterise Berlin-Mitte, as they do every hip neighbourhood in the world, this uniform look provided an identity that could function as both a unifying and diversifying factor in the milieu of emerging subcultures. Bless' role in this connection was that of catalyst and trailblazer. Their shop in the heart of Mitte remained a sty in the eye of the new hip establishment, and seriously challenged the rampant spread of soulless mass- and re-production.

For the two designers, being perceived as a label in Berlin did not mean settling down; it meant pragmatic and intelligent exploitation of a basis for global operations, as they had planned from the beginning. Bless' shop concept was nomadic. A Bless shop could crop up anywhere in the world: in a hick village in Brandenburg, in a museum in Paris or a villa in the south of France. The shop in Berlin-Mitte with its fixed opening hours, clothes racks, the entire current collection in various sizes and a few choice pieces from days-gone-by has an energy and the excitement of constant change that is unlike anything anybody has ever thought a shop could be. It's a place where literally anything can happen.

Fashion designer Gabriele Thiels describes the appeal of the Bless strategy of refusal: no neon lettering on the facade, no mannequins in the window and the goods barely recognisable from the outside. 'Instead, a vacuum cleaner is elegantly integrated into a table on wheels, a slipover knitted out of fine strips of fur is casually slung over a ledge, and small-format landscape photographs with built-in disks of make up leaning against a wall somewhere ... But one thing is certain: you are instantly drawn into the Bless universe - and come to the comforting conclusion that getting involved is one thing, looking at the stuff and trying it on another. Because Bless clothes are wearable and speak for themselves - if you've got them in front of you.'

The strategies pursued by art in the course of the twentieth century often resonate in the world of fashion - from Duchamp's readymades or Guy Deboard's Situationist detournement to the deliberate misunderstanding of objects as in the surrealism of Man Ray, the glorification of commodities practised by Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein, Joseph Beuys' multiples and Daniel Buren's striped jackets for museum attendants. To a lesser or greater degree, they have all influenced fashion. Every fashion designer who sees clothing as part of the history of ideas has to take a stand in that respect. Bless plays with an open hand. When the two designers draw on the grammar of the fine arts, they do not inquire into its history but rather into just how viable avant-garde thinking remains today.

Take their scarves, for example. Created with the support of Levi's, Windsor and H&M, they are each what the designers call 'the essence of a former outfit'. Jacket, shirt or jeans of the respective company are cut into narrow strips and laid over each other 'regardless of price, social background, age or other features'. Market analysis and a new social order, aesthetic statement and recycling contribution, it has all 'coalesced into one single piece that not only looks good, but it keeps your neck warm as well', as Gabriele Thiels writes.

Speaking about the beginnings of Appropriation Art, the American art critic Douglas Crimp pointed out that such artistic techniques as quoting, excerpting, framing and performing expose the cultural strategies of art. The idea of strategic appropriation did not become popular in art until the late seventies but it made an earlier appearance in the fashions that reference the history of clothing. Ultimately Coco Chanel's appropriation of a gentleman's coat not only exquisitely prefigures the strategies of such masters as Duchamp and Debord, it throws gender overboard as well. Bless gives appropriation a radical twist through the gravity with which they test how well the technique fares in every-day use.

Like every positive relationship, the one between art and fashion is characterised by a meaningful blend of proximity and distance. The last two decades of the twentieth century saw such a narrowing of the gap between the two fields that they have become almost indistinguishable. Bless came into being at a time when both sides were actively working to break down the distinction between the two categories. At biennials, fashion designers and fine artists joined forces in order to fabricate new synergetic excesses of glamour; sometimes with success.

Unpertubed Bless analyses the potential of that colourful crossover. They feel a greater affinity with the attitude of Elsa Schiapparelli than with the fashionable embrace of art. In her memoirs, Shocking Life, Schiaparelli remarked that the words artistic and impossible did not exist in her vocabulary. She made and had to make that statement because she was so widely perceived as an artist and because there was so much art in her work. Like her minimalist counterpart, Coco Chanel, she too, frequented the best Bohemian circles in Paris. Bless not only refuses to adopt the role of artistic studio, they also avoid it by focusing so consistently on the things of everyday life, most of which are not artistic in nature. their investigations into the challenges of everyday life could, of course, yield artistic solutions but that has never been their objective.

Bless' poetry has consistently followed an independent path. It reflects equally on the analytical precision of deconstruction established by Rei Kawakubo's Comme des Garcons and the Belgian melancholy that marks their choice of colours and materials. Filtered through Bless, the result is harder and more decisive because, for one thing, Bless' reinterpretation of contemporary classics is so new and uncompromising: the hoodie, trainers, baggy pants, the woollen cap, the sweater, the jeans skirt, the parka and the jewellery chains. The chains are a good example. Jewellery, as an accessory, is a more effective status symbol than any other aspect of fashion. Jewellery is generally designed to increase a person's value. Bless turns it into a kit, with building blocks made out of civilisation's trivia.

Bless does not let people take pictures of them, but poster-sized prints of their faces appear on sweatshirts - an extremely sophisticated for of coquetry, underscored by calling this foray into narcissism 'fan items'.

For Bless, the omnipresence of design and a world filled with beautiful things, have always been a threat. The grounding od design by the functionalism of Bauhaus was repeatedly undermined as the twentieth century progressed. The world seems to be under-designed in many respects and form has fallen victim to the hysterical desire to find it. 'In everyday items', Ines Kaag explains, 'you can only choose between the shark fins, technoid shapes and bubblegum colours. Try to find a telephone that looks like a telephone, classical, simple, functional, in a neutral black or grey - you won't. Vacuum cleaners are yellow or purple, irons have turquoise water tanks and look like a futuristic Porsche. Cars - same problem."

When asked why they used Queen Mary, Barbara Cartland and Cher to present their latest collection, Kaag delves slightly deeper: Fashion is not tied to the aesthetics of models; it's part of everyday life and has to be something everybody can wear. A label like Bless works with this new, urban identity in Germany. Combining the avant-garde, Protestant severity and intellectually first-rate humour, they have distilled the essence of fashionable innovation on the interface of both art and (interior) architecture. To them the brain is the sexiest part of the body, so they just cover up the rest, allowing only understated stimulation. It is this claim that attracts fashion victims form Tokyo and New York to take a look at and buy the wearable mental conundrums on sale at Mulackstrasse in Berlin.

For female consumers and fashion critics like Gabriele Thiels, it is good news that you don't have to go on a starvation diet in order to wear Bless clothing: 'It requires neither the figure of a minor nor ten years of gymnastics: the shoes are flat, T-shirts and pants are not a second skin and body measurements are irrelevant for sweaters, scarves and bags. These fashions don't put pressure on the body. They challenge the brain.'

Since then they have brainstormed disposable T-shirts, cut-out shoes, make up to wear, coats for chairs and the hallmark of their rise to fame: a wig of racoon fur. They started with accessories; now they have an Art Basis Collection. But whatever they do, it's always slightly wacky so that you can never quite tell where the use-value ends and conceptual art begins.

Besides, you can always have to do a bit of thinking yourself in order, for example, to grasp the meaning of a tiny black leather purse with rings sewn onto it and a little piece of fur. All you need to do is put your fingers in the rings, the fur under your knuckles, and you've got the perfect means of cushioning all those heavy shopping bags that cut off your circulation - and into your fingers. Not only that, you've got your money at hand as well. What an obvious and practical item but also an unabashed send-up of shopping, the preferred ritual of fashion victims and status seekers, for whom even the right shopping bag counts. 'How cool is that!' was the enthusiastic response of fashion's ordinarily unflappable grand critic Suzy Menkes of the Herald Tribune. Bless simply calls these ideas 'new solutions for everyday life'; they just design 'things that happen to be missing'. Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag, based in Paris and Berlin, start with the small things, and their sights are set on the whole world. Their ideas are products of simple observations. 'Fashion design can be so boring so you have to keep surprising yourself', they say. The minute you hold their little purse in your hand you know exactly what they mean.

Bless is rebellious, but without the hackneyed boring gestures of the rebel. Their aggression against shop-soiled conservatism is civilised and positively polite. No matter how vehement, the performative structure of their aggression is always within bounds. Instead of the usual catwalk displays, they wine and sine the most important fashion critics in a small restaurant, who are waited on by 'models', usually actors and actresses, wearing their latest collection. In October 2005 Bless presented their summer 06 collection at the Cite metro station, where they rented a flower stall and set up a kind of artificial garden. On another occasion, their models were celebrities from the waxworks museum.

Their distribution channels are unusual: you can subscribe to Bless. The rhythm of their collection does not obey the one that has governed the fashion world for decades. Only those who think, feel and work the way they do, will come up with a ring binder for cushions or jewellery for the cables of our computers or television sets. According to Niklas Luhmann, the synthesis of novelty and originality goes back to the seventeenth century: 'The wondrous and the new fuses with expectations of the originality and the difficulty of the task at hand.' Nowadays originality documents the unexpected and unexplainable emergence of something new. 'Things lose their memory, so to speak.' After losing many battles in the course of the twentieth century, the new and the original have disappeared as crucial concepts of art.

Post-Modernism represents emulation's sybaritic march of triumph. Copying resonates in many of Bless' designs except that their photocopier is a surrealist black box. The ring binder with a cushion - an incredibly pragmatic item for apartments with limited place to sit but lots of visitors - recalls a painting by Konrad Klapheck or the sculptures of Claes Oldenburg, but above all, it gleefully subverts orthodox modern design. Although Bless emulates, the emulation morphs into a new essence. Re-entry of new and original fashion and design appears to be an automatic by-product of Bless activities. And the re-entry of the new is entirely indebted to the modernist vehemence with which Bless pragmatically defines this controversial concept of cultural history. The new comes from a state of emergency: new needs require new things, new times spawn new ways of looking at things, and new social situations produce new products. the new is a gift for anyone who takes a closer look at the dreams of individual wishing machines, thereby enabling them to acquire clear-cut form.

Coco Chanel found her style before she began designing. It seems that Bless is no different. Nothing they have ever done has tempted them to deviate from their style. The eternity of the present begs description.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 2:01 pm
by germinal
for @iliam

BLESS Photography

A series of very young girls wearing spectacles, an accessory rarely used in fashion, shot for Purple magazine. These extravagant old-fashioned glasses came from an ordinary optician, Brille Neumann, in Berlin.

Purple, no. 14, supplement Purple Ten Years, Winter 2003


Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 1:54 pm
by germinal

Two Excerpts on Ken Isaacs' Living Structure, 1954-1974

We had dreamed of freedom and invented the thirty-year mortgage. (Ken Isaacs, 'Alpha Chambers')
My friend Ken Isaacs's Living Structure, a three-dimensional frame that united spaces for sleeping, working and socialising in a single object, first came to public attention in a Life magazine article published in October 1954.[1] Among the photographs in the article is one of Ken seated at a work table within the frame while his wife of the time, Jo, rests on the bed above. The frame is neatly divided into eight cubes which, when join together, function as a combined bedroom, storage area, work space, and a place for intimate socialising. Later versions of the Living Structure were to incorporate space for dining and additional storage.
At a time when the American public was preoccupied with the dream of a house and yard, a new car, and a kitchenful of appliances, the Living Structure, by contrast, presented a more radical argument for how people might live.[2] As Ken later wrote, 'The changes indicated that the mythic significance of the status symbol might eventually give way to the conception of the object as a useful tool with which to achieve a personal experiential result.'[3] His emphasis on action recalls the rhetoric of the Russian avant-garde designer Alexander Rodchenko, who conceived of multipurpose furniture in the 1920s in a similar vein. But what is different about Ken's work is that it quickly found a place in the American cultural mainstream rather than ending up in the realm of speculative avant-garde projects. As presented in Life, the Living Structure was a means to liberate much-coveted space in a one-room urban apartment and transform it into the equivalent of what Ken called, 'a kind of two-story house'.
What further rooted the Living Structure in the mainstream was the fact that it could be easily constructed by anyone with the most basic carpentry skills. Throughout his career Ken has worked with a single core idea - the matrix - a three-dimensional grid that he has used to organise all his projects. The matrix has served him as a powerful vehicle for order and economy while also functioning as an equally strong device for the invention of projects. What underlies Ken's work is a commitment to productive living, which is manifested in his design of what Ivan Illich has called 'convivial tools'.[4]

[1] 'Home in a Cube', Life, 11 October 1954, pp. 91-92.
[2] 'Living Structure' was a term Ken used for the matrix designs that he began to create around 1949.
[3] Ken Isaacs, 'Alpha Chambers', Dot Zero, no. 4 (summer 1967), p. 39.
[4] For a discussion of this term see Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality, Berkeley 1973, pp. 10-16.

Excerpt from Victor Margolin 'Ken Isaacs: Matrix Designer?', in Victor Margolin: The Politics of the Artificial. Essays on Design and Design Studies, Chicago 2002, p. 61.

Liberated Space
Traditional furniture was never organised as a whole system, the pieces were a bunch of separate, unrelated objects determined by inertia and sentiment, feeble efforts were made to organize them 'visually' but that was just another trap. The old culture has always tried to make the unworkable endurable by overlaying it with whichever 'good taste' is going at the moment. Unfortunately this is like trying to make airplanes look like birds. That never worked either. That's because you can't make feathers out of aluminium. Living Structures work with interpenetration of spaces and systematically, geometrically get more performance from a smaller array of components in a more cohesive area. Away from room walls they aid circulation, movement & cleaning. One of the most profound results of the Living Structure synthesis is that it frees a larger part of the room for open and inventive uses. You have room left open for tearing a motorbike down, gallery-mounting pre-Columbia sculpture collections or restoring great-Grandma's Singer sewing machine. In a traditional 'living room' all these activities would not fit in very well.

There's never been any uncertainty in my head about the idea that all new life designs must be based on a more real set of assumptions and objectives than those motivating the present orgy of production. My inner conflict has revolved around the question of whether it's better to attempt new actions from the centre of the system or to work more on the outskirts. A little isolation from the old-culture obsessions with big-money/big-power seems to give me very precious liberty. It becomes apparent that concrete and inventive living responses, undistracted by cultural fantasies, are the best approach to the problem of survival. The big-deal attack is sometimes very seductive though. It panders to the Western idea of self and holds out the promise of quick, easy results. The truth is that propaganda efforts to encourage slowdown in consumption are a lot like trying to get a shark to eat with a knife and fork.

Withdrawal and Return
My resolution of the conflict was to spend long periods at the Groveland building, thinking and scraping the mud off my boots. Periodically I returned to the urban centres, usually because some one individual showed a desire to nourish the Matrix Idea. You can't respond to a corporation but you do to a person even if you lack faith in some of the premises.

David & Leonard
David was a quick, generous N.Y.C. guy interested in Living Structures and Microhouses. He sent me to Leonard, who ran a big bookstore on Fifth Avenue. Leonard was diversifying from books into Picasso plates and Bantu necklaces so he allowed as how he could sell a reading light of special design if he had it. This wasn't exactly a clear mandate for a Structure but I got down to work and built the prototype Superchair anyway. Leonard sold quite a few I guess even though his fabrication was grisly and his prices astronomic. I learned something valuable.

Excerpts from Ken Isaacs, How to Build Your Own Living Structures, New York 1974, pp. 35, 85.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:04 pm
by germinal
The Bless Question Game

To bless or to wish well? To make happy? To make well, to feel good? Homemade? How? And in fact, what to wear? Do you invent new clothes? New forms? How do you succeed in letting people be as they are? Men too? Respect? Life? How to feel comfortable? Always? How do you dress bodies that are not for sale? How to propose another beauty? Proposing instead of imposing? Protect? Collaborate with others? What's the importance of friendship? Two women? Between friends? Rather than alone? Who does what? Who really cares about this question? Do you work a lot? Life? How in this world? How to keep calm? Be lucky? Continue? Keep walking? And adversity? What answer? Love? Grace? And fashion? Why? clothes or objects? Ornaments? What is it? To invent? Things that didn't exist before? Idea makers? Well-made? To make good? Did you know that Meret Oppenheim, author of the fur-lined teacup in 1936, cried every night for several years? Can you bring joy? Hope?

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 9:04 am
by germinal
Probably the best Bless interview I've read


Jan Winkelmann in Conversation with Bless

Jan Winkelmann: In the catalogue published in conjunction with the exhibition for the winners of the ars viva prize 01/02, you chose not to use the pages put at your disposal to represent your products, collections and/or projects, but instead you worked out an exchange with a number of magazines: they placed your advert in their publication in exchange for an advert in the catalogue. Can you tell us something about the project and what motivated you to pursue the idea? Obviously a kind of refusal underlies what you did.
Bless: Our work thrives on tasks that come from outside or that we impose on ourselves and the subsequent search for solutions that we consider meaningful. All reactions are welcome because it is exciting when out work functions as a means of establishing contact with undefined recipients.
ars viva prize was flattering and welcome - especially because it meant an expansion of our own field of action and potential access to a world with a take on things that we find very interesting. Since the catalogue was to be published in time for the first leg of the exhibition tour, the deadline was very tight. That was unusual for us because normally our publications document an outcome rather than make a prognosis.
It put a lot of pressure on us and made us realise that it is a privilege as designers not to be dependent on grants and stipends; we can take as long as we want to think through a project and we're not forced to present an unfinished version of something. Another complicating factor was that we wanted to incorporate the aspect of the unexpected, the unpredictable by reacting directly, spontaneously, to the venues of the touring
ars viva exhibition and their respective contexts. That's why our contribution to the catalogue addresses the ideas of the prize itself. We initiated an exchange of ads with magazines and publications relevant to our trade. We were able to place ads free of charge in international magazines of importance to us and, in fact, to place one ad for each individual product in our entire S/S 2002 collection 'Bless Shopping Supports'. But there was something even more important: we were able to reveal the eternal network structures that support our work. Since we have always been sceptical about the museum framework as a venue for our products, we came up with the idea of a combination of reading stand and picture frame for the presentation of the magazines participating in the project. The Wall (BLESS N°17) on view at the Neues Museum in Nuremberg was a response to the conditions on site and to the desire to intervene directly in the specific structure there. It also gave us the opportunity to execute an idea we had envisioned for places like administrative buildings, bus stops or museums. It is part of BLESS N°17 Design Relativators and a way or relativising the design of furniture for seating.

J: Could you explain what you mean by Design Relativators?
B: This is the product information for BLESS N°17: style neutralizing surfaces for indispensable products. The invasive design of unavoidable everyday products is omnipresent. A closer look at the appearance of most available products like telephones, blow dryers, irons, vacuum cleaners, cars etc. generally shows their physical inability to give us visual satisfaction. We need to use them but don't like to look at them. The aim is an optical adaptation to our needs.

J: When and where did you meet, how did you start working together and, above all, hoe did you end up with the name Bless?
B: We met in 1993 at an international competition in Paris for fashion students. Desiree was studying at the Hochschule fuer Angewandte Kunst in Vienna and Ines at the Fachhochschule fuer Kunst und Design in Hanover. Our drawings happened to be hung next to each other, so we started talking. We kept in contact and attended each other's graduation presentations in 1994 and 1995. The following summer we worked on a small edition of summer tops. We used pictures we had taken of them to design posters and thought about a name to which we could add our telephone number to encourage people to give us feedback on our first attempt at spreading our work.
Bless is a name that represents our original approach to working on a project. We wanted a name that would not sound too distorted in various languages, one that could possibly be a woman's name and that would be very easy to remember.

J: How would you describe the way that you work? Could you give an example of the genesis of a project or a collection?
B: Our approach is extremely project oriented. We are essentially motivated by the passionate desire to change or improve things as we see them, and to offer these proposals in the form of products or adverts. The main driver behind our work is our shared personal interest in two things: in coming up with an idea that is incomparable and in trying to make our own wishes come true. Another special aspect is probably that our work is always more than just a form of agreement between us; in other words, neither of us alone would ever arrive at the same result.
Naturally, as we acquire experience we also acquire a feeling for what might or might now 'work'. However, we have the freedom either to take that into account, that is to pander to the market from our point of view, or to be egotistical and idealistic and make as few compromises as possible. We have come to realise that both aspects are important because we can't live the way we would like to if we only have items in storage.

J: Do you make products/collections at regular intervals or do you fly in the face of convention and expectations in this respects as well?
B: We started out trying to present four products a year but we soon pared it down to three because it's also the rhythm of the fashion world, which does after all represent our main clientele. The number of ideas/designs/projects a year varies but the basic tendency has been a growing one since we started. At first we thought it was especially interesting not to think in terms of collections but rather in terms of single products because we didn't want to offer variations on one idea but the idea itself as a product. For example BLESS N°03 was an accessory conceived as a proxy for a collection. It is a full-body accessory, which you can attach to your ears, for example, and wear over your clothing as jewellery, a kind of tulle veil to which we attached several more or less useless elements in different colours and materials and that we basically envisioned would act as a kind of flintstone. We sold only a very few, among others, to friends who were also designers, and the product was more for out personal pleasure than a market success. Our low-key presence at the pret-a-porter shows in Paris quickly made us realise that we would have to give up our dream idea of following our own rhythm. It obviously makes more sense to present a project during the 'official times' than while everybody is away on holiday. So we internalised the conventional concept of time, not least because of our collaboration with other designers and companies, and indulge in the luxury of pursuing our own projects during the summer season.

J: Does Bless occasionally work on commission for other labels?
B: Recently, we received our first inquiry from an Italian label, which markets two secondary lines. We were commissioned to work out two different advertising campaigns for magazines such as the Italian Vogue, Self Service and Dutch. We had already done a few jobs for magazines as freelance photographers. The company must have been 'watching' us for awhile because they knew what we had done from the start. We found it interesting because the situation was diametrically opposed to Bless: both lines already sell pretty well but the name is relatively unknown, even though the products hang next to designer labels in all the right shops. It appealed to us to be consulted as image designers. The only specification was a collection of clothing. Jobs like that are not only a creative challenge but also a means of financing our own work.

J: Your products are not only popular accessories among your customers but sometimes other fashion designers even use them for fashion shows, like your Furwigs (BLESS N°00). Have other cultural producers 'appropriated' your work?
The fact that the Furwig gave Martin Margiela the idea of cooperating with other designers for the first time was a fruitful coincidence for us. Since we weren't planning to produce a collection of our own that quickly, his offer came at just the right time. But it also meant that we had to put a new product on the market because we didn't want to be reduced to being hat makers of to be perceived as such. That's when we made the first Bless beauty-product, out Wearable Make Up, consisting of a variety of little pieces of fabric that Kostas Murkudis used and presented in his show.
It occurred to us that we could support other designers who took an approach that we could identify with, and to promote ideas that we really liked and that we couldn't have done better ourselves. We called this line 'Bless
advanced, designed by ...' and started out with the Direction Indicators designed by Markus Wente. They are narrow grey armbands labelled R for 'right' and L for 'left'. Later the line included the Protector designer by Windy & Jim, the Jeans Ring designed by Joerg Todtenbier and the Earbags designed by Tom Natvig. BLESS N°06 Customizable Footwear actually came through an inquiry that we sent to New Balance and Charles Jourdain about the soles of their shoes, which they then kindly put at our disposal. And the Japanese label ZUCCa used our chairwear (BLESS N°06 Chairwear B) for their fashion show in Paris because there was no compelling reason for us to mount an independent presentation of these interior products.
Then we initiated other collaborative ventures, like the BLESS N°10 Scarves project. We asked very different designers and manufacturers of mass-produced clothing for donations of clothes that we could use to create a new look, which we then reduced to a scarf silhouette. In one project BLESS N°12 Team-ups we designed jewellery for Bucherer and trainers for Adidas. We also designed a shoe, BLESS N°16 Shoe Escorts for Eram. It was a unique collection of 50 pairs of hand-knitted leather shoes.

J: Your work not only addresses the conventions and codes of the fashion world; it also spreads out into neighbouring fields of cultural production such as product design. Are you interested in probing the interfaces or is that not an issue for you?
B: Actually we don't even notice the interfaces anymore. We don't think about what we do in terms of how it should be defined or classified. Quite simply, at a certain point something gave us cause to design a certain product and now that product exists. So it fulfils its purpose for us. We are happy if it fulfils the same purpose for somebody else but equally happy if people choose to use it for a different purpose. The most important thing, as far as we are concerned, is that we have 'mastered' an issue in the form of a product. If it makes other people happy as well, all the better, of course.

J: You make your customers contribute considerable mental input. They can't just be consumers; they have to be active participants. Or is it simply because you don't like to make products that are easy to consume?
B: It's difficult to relieve one's own optical boredom. When we make a new product, we may manage to surprise ourselves, for a moment, and possibly be even to look at things from a different point of view. We always start with our own needs, thinking that there are probably other people out there who have similar needs. They may not necessarily be our customers but they get something out of the products in the form of reflection and involvement, which allows them to shift their own perspective and possibly triggers new thought processes.
It would be wonderful if we could offer an alternative to all the ready-made stuff that we're surrounded with. And we would like to retain just a little bit of naivety. It really goes against the grain to make things that are merely superficially decorative and basically more or less useless - except maybe as items on the 'What's-new?' pages of consumer-oriented lifestyle magazines. All of our products have to mean something to us, even if it's an absurd, very personal meaning that enriches our environment directly or indirectly.

J: In an article about your work you used the term 'dilettantism bonus' to describe activities that are not directly related to your core competence. Is that a kind of breaking point in your work that you deploy as a deliberate strategy?
B: There is less theory to our work than one might assume. We are not rtained in the production of shoes and bags; we have absolutely no qualifications for managing the financing of a project, doing bookkeeping or planning the logistics of distribution; we don't know nearly enough about the composition of fabrics and until quite recently we still refused to have anything to do with computers. But we are both ambitious and have an unquenchable desire for change. We are two women who make a pretty good team and who give each other plenty of leeway, which other people probably wouldn't be prepared to do - to such an extent at least. We do not want to hold fast to any one thing and we do not want to claim that we are are home in any particular field because the day after tomorrow something completely different may inspire us.

J: Even so, I'd like to return to the fields of art and design. Since you work in both, I'd like to know how you perceive your experiences in these specific fields in relation to yourselves and your work. To what extent do you find them compatible or mutually exclusive?
B: Generally, one would first have to talk about where the dividing line runs, who needs the distinction and whether it is even necessary. No buyer of our products has ever asked us id what they have just bought is 'art' or 'design'. We simply don't classify our work in that way. Everybody always wants to classify us but, interestingly enough, the fact that we don't take a stand is actually compatible with the prevailing discourse.
Our work is directed primarily at the product sector, that is, it's the field that we have to master. As soon as we have an idea we immediately try to give it shape and make a prototype - with no outside help, if possible. This is different from what fashion designers usually do. They mostly communicate their ideas in the form of sketches or technical drawings, especially if they are employed as part of a larger structure, and then second and third parties implement their ideas. As soon as we have a result, i.e. a prototype, a picture or a photograph of the piece, we then go on to decide how and how much we want to produce. Only then, if at all, do we get in touch with potential partners and think about what makes sense for the specific situation - also in terms of other parallel projects - and finally how we want to proceed. Occasionally an idea doesn't get any further than that; others are revived after having been shelved for a while if the circumstances change. In other cases, there is no possibility for a cooperative venture or no affordable solution for adequate outsourcing. So then 'craftsmanship' comes into play, in other words, we make the product by hand, which means that the size of the editions depends on the factors of 'time' and how much we 'feel like it' per season. The prices of these editions are based on the cost of production. Even if experience has shown that, for example, the Japanese will pay especially high sums for limited editions, we are still more interested in affordability. We want to make objects that can be used and we wan our work to be disseminated. It's more important to us than exploiting our market value as artists.
Our approach to making unique pieces is based on their reproducibility and the respective situation for which we are making them. When we are invited to contribute to exhibitions such as the one at the Neues Museum in Nuremberg, we have a specific space at our disposal, a specific context and a corresponding budget. This opens up entirely different possibilities and the issue of sales becomes secondary. In other words, we can work on ideas that we wouldn't ordinarily be able to work on because of the economic constraints. That's the way the Wall came about, which we mentioned earlier. It is also seating, it offers a service and it is a museum interior as well. It 'functions' so well for us that we would like to incorporate it in our line of products. As you can see, the two fields inseminate each other; they constantly overlap and can't be viewed separately.

J: Those are all perfectly understandable considerations but they're essentially practical. So do you think of the dividing line between art and design more in terms of pragmatic agenda rather than in terms of content or concept?
B: As already mentioned, there is no dividing line for us. We take our flintstone from commissioned work. We find our clients' and customers' desire for something extremely stimulating. What is important to us is to be able to function as independent agents in the sense of answering to our own personal sense of responsibility, and to act on a productive need to communicate.

J: Your exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam opened recently. The press release called it a retrospective. That's a big word, and maybe a little bit premature. How do you address that, or rather, what is on view in your exhibition?
B: Basically everything we've produced in the last ten years. That means BLESS N°00 to N°28 and, in addition, BLESS N°29, the Wallscapes. The Wallscapes measure 3 x 4 metres and are papered directly onto the wall or onto a kind of folding screen or pieces of furniture. They're full-scale photographs of interiors with lots of objects including our products. BLESS N°29 Wallscapes is a typical Bless product in the sense that it is a reaction to given circumstances, in this case the invitation to do a retrospective. We called the exhibition Retroperspective. We are interested in the possibility of making a plausible presentation of our work in an artificial situation, in other words, one that is not part of everyday life.

J: Between the presentation in Rotterdam and your participation in the show in Leipzig in 2002, did you exhibit in other museums or institutional contexts?
B: For one thing, we've done all these Bless shops, which we still consider a viable response to invitations to do exhibitions in various institutions. We've also contributed to exhibitions like Manifesta 4 in Frankfurt in 2002, where we presented our N°17 Design Relativators and Invitation No. 75 at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, where we dressed models as comic heroes and set them to the opening with our products in order to document the event and themselves as well. And there have also been several design exhibitions to which we contributed: a presentation in our shop in Berlin as part of the Design Mai event; a Droog/Bless exhibition in the south of France that was later shown in Amsterdam; Fashination, a major fashion exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, 2004; moDe!, an exhibition at the Goethe-Institut in Tokyo, 2005, in conjunction with the German year in Japan; and in 2004 a contribution to the Performative Architektur exhibition at the GfZK in Leipzig, where we had the opportunity to present our hanging furniture (N°22 Perpetual Home Motion Machines) in the form of museum shop architecture. The latter has become a permanent installation to which we have added a special 'mobile cashier's counter' and, later, following substantial changes in the lobby, the design of a handrail along a ramp. At the moment we are still working on a kind of wardrobe system to satisfy the need for a place to store valuables.

J: How do you see your presence in a framework that is actually meant for the presentation of art? And especially in Rotterdam, which has a magnificent collection of old and new art?
B: That is a key question that actually applies to all our exhibitions. It was a great challenge for us to rethink our work in devising an exhibition for such a renowned institution. Especially since our products are primarily designed and intended for everyday life. To us they are more interesting as objects that work in an everyday context than when they are on display. That's why we decided to present the Wallscapes.
The life-sized depiction of living spaces provided the ordinary background that we wanted for the items. In addition, some of our products that appear in the photographs show traces of use, showing that they are not new and still alive, still in use, which lends a kind of lightness to the retrospective aspect. We specifically wanted the view from the windows of the interiors to be included in the photographs. You might say that is is our decorative approach and at the Boijmans Museum, it breaks up the large wall surfaces and interacts with the architectural recesses. The one exception is a three-part wallpaper that shows the gallery of the Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm. There, in January 2006, we had installed our products in a windowless room completely papered all over in a leopard pattern. It was the team of three curators at Tensta that decided to change the white cube to an animal print cube. It became a place for visitors to stay and work.
As a background for various objects in the collection - in our case the statues of saints, an inlaid wooden table and the permanent installation in the central circular gallery of the old building - the Wallscapes also work the other way around, as uniting elements. We like the fact that the carved figures with their impressive craftsmanship look as if they were a collector's personal items, although they have not been moved. And our product BLESS N°26 Cable Jewellery is everywhere, running like a leitmotiv up and down the stairs and through all the spaces that we used for our exhibition.

J: On and off I receive these beautiful printed items from you, little magazines that look like fanzines or small paperbacks. What role does the medium of printed matter fulfil for you?
B: Since our collection N°23, we have been publishing the catalogues for our collections in cooperation with magazines published by friends. We came up with the idea when a good friend of ours, Nayako Hayashi, a Japanese journalist, asked us for the name of our printer. Having worked for a long time for cosmetic giant Shiseido's monthly fashion magazine, she decided to venture out on her own. She has made a substantial personal investment to launch a small magazine, much acclaimed by the fashion world, called Here and There. We had got used to publishing our version of catalogues or rather our alternative to the look books that accompany collections twice a year. We liked the idea of collaborating with her by publishing the catalogue as part of her magazine, not least because of the financial advantage. For both sides it means an increase in circulation and we benefit from the fact that our clothing and products, which appeal to a small but internationally widespread public, can be presented in the form of a magazine wthat we really appreciate and that also supports us since we are given carte blanche for the design and content of the Bless section. We have also worked together with the Australian magazine Slave, the Los Angeles magazine Textfield and Pacemaker in Paris. As a result the magazines are even cooperating among each other. Since the magazines very considerably in format, we are extremely lucky to have Manuel Raeder as a graphic designer (he's been working with us on the Bless book for two years). He has really risen to the challenge of dealing with these formats so that the Bless catalogue section doesn't just look like an advertising supplement: sometimes it becomes an integrated part of the publication; other times, it appears clearly set off as an independent entity.

J: In conclusion, it would be very interesting to know about what's coming up. What projects do you have up your sleeve and what can we look forward to?
B: Alongside the usual, seasonal obligations, we're becoming more and more involved in the design of interiors. We're currently working on the design of a shop in Japan where parts of the N°29 Wallscapes are on the wall and the back of our Mirror Curtain; other parts, as duplicates of the background, are integrated into a piece of functional shop furniture placed in the front. The result is somewhat like a fragmented three-dimensional room.
In Ferrara, Italy, we are decorating parts of a new office building. In addition to the Wallscapes and the Mirror Curtain, we're using N°26 Cable Jewellery and N°28 Hammocks as fittings for the showroom, the offices and the company staff rooms. The Villa de Noailles in the south of France asked us if we would furnish one of the four former Residential Rooms for artists and in Leipzig (GfZK), they are thinking about converting the artists' studios into hotel rooms. We are supposed to design them and the idea is that people can buy the furnishings, if they wish, much like the accessories that could be purchased as part of our Extended Hotel Service.
We are extremely happy about the way Bless is developing. And especially that our fashion, design and exhibition activities are so well-balanced at the moment. But - except for the fact that we would like to design a car and a house - what we would really like is to have more time in the future, and we truly hope that we can manage to grow and still remain structurally small.
And then there's the dream of the ultimate Bless product: a product that doesn't exist yet and therefore doesn't have a name yet, but once it has been invented, it will turn out to be as universally useful as Kleenex. We would simply call it Bless and if I have one and you need one, then you'll ask me, 'Do you by any chance have a Bless for me?' or 'Would you hand me that Bless?'

Part of this conversation was originally published in the Dutch language in: Metropolis M. Tijdschrift Over Hedendaagse Kunst, no. 1, January-March 2003.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:36 am
by germinal
@iliam i've typed out everything on this page...

There Is No Such Thing as a Typical Bless Customer

Potential wearers are not defined in advance; they do their own defining. Children, young people, older men and women can all be or become Bless customers, if they want to.

Part of a jacket or trousers turns into a scarf, a sun or rain hat becomes a cape or extended shoe, socks become boots and a sun visor morphs into a hairpiece. Some products do not bow to superficial classification according to function. They may look like totally useless at first sight, such as the hairbrush with hair cascading° from it, the modified chairs, the Coca-Cola bottles without contents, the watches that don't tell the time, the shirt cuffs as prostheses the latter three all carved from exotic wood. Others are terminologically defined, such as the so-called Frontspoiler, basically a hybrid between a practical belt and decorative embellishment; the term stems from the automotive industry rather than the fashion world. Single piece from one or several collections can be worn separately (as jackets, caps, scarves or shoes) or combined into one single - complex - article of clothing, comprised of several parts. The items target all kinds of customers, regardless of age or sex. Part of this strategy is to surprise with regard to materials or function - they not only provide curiosity, they also underscore the conventions of functionality. A chair turns out to be useful (even comfortable) after all, provided we have the courage to sit on it; seemingly useless wooden watches and cuffs morph into accessories and Coca-Cola bottles become cult objects with a claim to immortality. Sometimes it takes a while to recognise their use potential: the seat-wall is initially a put off. On second sight, and thanks to the title, we realise that the carved articles of clothing are actually storage boxes.

Existing items and found objects also come into play but in a new functional guise: 'The discovery of found objects proves the speciality of their constitution, their distribution by Bless shows a personal opinion and makes them look for a new owner and credits the anonymous designer-means', Bless explains. BLESS N°17 Design Relativators proved to be an accumulation of improvised everyday design, adopted and adapted by Bless. All Bless products shift and even rewrite the codes of culturally rooted modes of use, i.e. they formulate options, but ones that call for individual decisions. And the user certainly does not have to share Bless' opinion as regards the value or status of a product: the product provides a point of departure for negotiations; it is not a binding authoritarian statement. The user decides whether an article of clothing is used as a scarf, a jacket or trousers, or whether a wall doubles as seating. Function or non-function is constantly being redefined or reinterpreted because, being multi-coded, the products are by definition amenable to several options. This is strikingly illustrated by the Perpetual Home Motion Machines, offered as a 'moving fragment of a person's wardrobe and furniture, which allows to reflect and transmit privacy'. The users are encouraged to take an experimental approach to shifting around the meanings and functions. In Bless' own words: 'Bless design doesn't exist without the interaction, the self-experienced application and love of the user.' During the Paris Fashion Week at the Palais de Tokyo, Bless turned visitors into models by giving them the opportunity to select clothes, define their use and present them. As a special service, hotels can offer guests BLESS N°20 O.kayers, a small package of useful items, a kind of basic wardrobe, consisting of underwear, a jumper, a suit, a dress, a bag and sunglasses. Depending on one's needs, one can take up the offer and try out the products in the privacy of one's own room. Deviations from the established patterns and attitudes are of course intrinsic to this approach.

Bless starts with cultural conventions of function and meaning and gender-specific attributions and uses. These have lost their ability to generate identity as established, socially binding and unifying cultural codes. Identity no longer rests on the representation of uniform norms; mobile subjects meet up with globally circulating images and commodities; internationally accessible mass media influences the imagination and the creation of identities. Individuals and communities are no longer rooted in or confined to local, national or regional spaces; connections and a sense of place are eroding; centred and self-contained identities are disintegrating. Several mutually contradictory identities occupy one and the same space; the process of identification has not only become more open and more variable, it has also become more competitive, leading to uncertainty and a lack of significatory or representational decisiveness. Bless reflects and mirrors the slippage toward increasingly fragmentary and precarious identities, a phenomenon that is particularly acute in the fields of fashion and design. In consequence, the urge to set oneself off against all others, to be individual, to have a distinct, inimitable identity is confronted with an economic machine that deliberately seeks to manage and even control the production of identities. There is no room in this system for deviation, which must be ruled out - unless, of course, it can be economically exploited.

But the very essence of what Bless produces involves indeterminacy/ambiguity and even unpredictability. They flatly refuse to be pre-defined and pre-conceived not only in terms of generating meaning and assigning function but also in terms of their addressees. Their models are not glamorous: they have wrinkles, they are bald, they are both young and old. Bless banks on the activity of their viewers; they do the interpreting, they negotiate the meaning and status of the products and their function. This approach, motivated by an interest in emancipation, yields a constructive starting point for investigation into policies of identity and image production, it goes further than a plea for 'suspended', i.e. contingent identities, difference and hybridity and a scepticism toward strong representation. This would not automatically lead to the emancipation of the subjects. In fact, difference and hybridity, if they are efficiently organised, may easily be incorporated into the capitalist logic of exploitation. Hence, Bless also deviates economically in their approach to distribution and marketing by developing alternative strategies and parodying the traditional practices of personality cults and branding. The painted, printed or embroidered portraits of the designers' oversized faces and their signatures serve 'to satisfy the demands from the press to present the faces of the creators behind'. Similarly, for their contribution to the group show Invitation No. 75 at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam in 2003, the models wore a mix of cartoon celebrity costumes and Bless apparel, in response to the eternal interview question: 'which celebrity is wearing Bless?' Moreover, Bless products ignore the conventional dictates of consistency in price and quantity. Quantities range from batch production to unlimited editions to products shipped 'by subscription'. Once a product is sold out, it is discontinued regardless of demand or its potential market success. Control is guaranteed because Bless runs their own shops.

BLESS N°11, the Bless Shops, stood for an 'experimental retail experience' with two objectives: to present Bless products and to finance future initiatives. To this end, a selection of Bless products was put on sale in various places - in art institutions and local shops, at fashion fairs and festivals. True to form, the 'shops' acquired a different look each time in agreement with the respective in-house staff. For their contribution to the Werkleitz Biennale, Bless gave local shop owners in the towns of Barby, Tornitz, Calbe and Werkleitz the freedom to make their own selection and presentation of Bless products. The overriding objective was not sales but rather to provide an opportunity for encounters between local residents and visitors to the Biennale. Visitors to the local shops became acquainted not only with Bless products but also with the respective shop. At a pret-a-porter show in Paris, Bless decided to link the principle of the showroom with a shop. This meant that the public-at-large could also browse through products ordinarily accessible only to buyers and the media. End users thus had the privilege of enjoying advance information on the following season's products, and Bless thoroughly disrupted the logic of seasonal operations. In other projects, Bless juxtaposes the art trade, as an economic model, with the fashion business by having the two fields not only questions but also deliberately subvert each other for instance when they exchanged their pages in an exhibition catalogue with international fashion magazines or when they installed a Bless Shop in a museum. By addressing the fields of both fashion and art, including all the overlapping zones, and once again confounding any attempt at classification, Bless reveals the contradictions and conflicts that underlie economic and artistic interests, and above all their reciprocal relationship. Ambiguity, contingency and instability become the constituents of a practice that is based on multiple focal points as a means of probing possibilities of external versus self-determination, commercial success versus critical reflection and incorporation versus resistance.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:25 am
by germinal
this is a weird interview

Interview with Nobuyoshi Tamura

Manuel Raeder: How would you describe what you do?
Nobuyoshi Tamura: What does that mean? I didn't do anything.

M: How did you start doing aikido?
N: When I started not many people were doing aikido. I became very interested, so I began.

M: How do the clothes that you wear while doing aikido relate to the way that you move. Does the hakama influence the way you move during your practice?
N: The kimono is a Japanese tradition - I prefer working in the kimono that in jeans. The kimono is much more practical than normal clothes, and it's a good start, like in the time of Samurai they had the sword stuck in their belt, and they were perfect like that.

M: How would you see the relation between the sword and the everyday? I mean people don't really walk around with swords on the streets anymore?
N: It's a pity that it's not like that anymore because then there would be no more bad guys (laughs).

M: The relation to objects in aikido is very present. The sword is very present.
N: The sword is like justice, discipline. The Samurai were symbolised by the katana. It was the hear of the Samurai. If you make no mistake you cut, and if you make a mistake you get cut.

M: I have read that aikido attempts to answer the violence with peace. Can you spread peace through teaching a martial art?
In Japan the martial arts were there for the good, for peace. It's in the etymology of the word 'budo' which means martial art . The sword is only for protecting yourself, not for bad intentions. Over here it's misunderstood. Here people think it's a weapon and that it'd for bad. It's like your skin which is there to protect you against attack from microbes and not to bite the microbe, ha-ha! That is martial arts.

M: Do you think your students understand that martial arts exist to bring peace and not war?
N: I hope so (laughs).

M: How can you be tolerant towards things that can harm you and others?
N: Yes, of course, with a sword you can cut, you can kill. It's the same with a knife. You can cook with it, but you can also kill. The function of a knife or a sword depends on the way you see it.

M: Are you always positive?
N: Not always (laughs).

M: Does being tolerant not also mean being ignorant?
N: Yes. When you do something, two seconds earlier you didn't know you would do it. That's normal. The important thing is the presents. We do not know the future. God knows and he decides, so no worries.

M: It seems like the roots of aikido come from the idea of Zen and Buddhism.
N: Yes. Martial arts and the Japanese religions have this same base - also Shinto, Buddhism, maybe also the Japanese Christians, who knows?

M: In Buddhism and Zen you return to yourself. Can young people today associate with it because they are oversaturated with advertising, marketing and the media, and this allows them to have distance again?
N: It's normal. It's you, not someone else who exists for you. You have to know yourself. That's always the start, before you can communicate, because everything begins with what's inside you.

M: Maybe this way of thinking is more relevant in Japan than in Europe.
N: No, it used to be ... but Japan is now also really Europeanised or Americanised. It's problematic! (laughs)

M: Is peace a fiction, a utopia?
N: No, peace is inside you. You have to complete it first yourself. It starts with you, with friends, your family and then it grows little by little. People always say that peace is something that comes from the outside: 'the government is bad' or 'war is everywhere'. But it's the other way around. Peace is inside and it starts with you.

M: Do you think this idea could be transmitted to politicians?
N: In politics nothing is stable, it grows, and it collapses. And when it's collapsing they would understand that they would have to find the way - otherwise, we're other! We have to adapt together, otherwise we are all dead together. What's money? What's oil? Nothing! That's the job of the youth.

M: Do you think aikido can change the people's perception or behaviour?
N: I hope so. I would like to try. Some people are more open. It takes more time for some of them. Some people understand it more. Some understand only a part of it. Aikido is a possibility; it's like a tool.

M: So it is related to the idea of growth and adjustment?
N: When I look at this fashion magazine (Bless look book N°23 with Here and There) I'm not interested in the clothes. I look at the attitudes of the people. It's all about attitudes. Men are bad. Women are better. I always look at the attitudes and think: 'this is correct, this not correct'. Women are straighter - they look up. Men look at the ground.

M: But would you agree that in history, in Japan, women were oppressed?
N: No, it's not true. It's like in Italy or France, they have all the power! In Japan it was the Samurai that were going to war. But women were carrying babies, they had the power. They are the mothers - they are stronger. I don't mean tough muscle strong, but they are sweet and gentle. That's where the strength lies.

M: Do you wear your hakama every day?
N: Yes, I do.

M: How often do you wash your aikido outfit?
N: I wash it when it's dirty. It's different to the kimono which is like a shirt. It's next to the skin and you sweat in it, you wash it every day. The hakama is more like a costume, you wash it less often.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 10:12 am
by germinal
Bless Central

In order to grasp the originality of Bless' project - to decipher the primary issues at play in it and its processes - one must stop hiding behind traditional critical standards. One has to have directly experienced a certain time and collective history. One has to have experienced that turning point at the end of the 1980s when public relations put individuals into spaces of control that carved up the substance of the social bond into an array of distinct products. One has to have perceived how the accelerated transformation of our lifestyles is among the most tangible effects of the upheavals in the world's symbolic economy. And now, even knowing this, our powers of prediction still do not enable us to regard behaviour as full-fledged conceptual objects. One has to have come to self-consciousness in order to become disaffected with oneself, to invent new ways of being and develop specific practices that change the way we deal with space, the city, couples, work, and friendship. From its inception (when it was no more than a poster with a telephone number on the walls of Vienna), Bless' creative activity has taken its place within the framework of these transformations, it does not seek to break with this new world, but goes beyond it and plumbs its possibilities. By moving from one arena to another (fashion, beauty, interior decoration, design, advertising, sculpture), by testing various methods of appearance and absence, Bless transcends the limits of the fashion profession and industry and proposes both provisional exits as well as alternative readings and connections. Bless opens up a number of blocked pathways, discovering points of contact between existences, textures and levels of reality that are normally kept apart. It generates a system of connections that is created afresh with each new series, which plays with the language of connectivity, with a set of ideas derived from the way we use modernity, things, technology, waves and their radiation.

Bless' special quality resides in the peaceful way that it concludes a kind of 'contract of transparency' with the age and with machines. Symbolized by commodities or replaced by them, signposted by logos, human relations today must take clandestine forms if they wish to elude the domination of signs. A subjective and retrospective reading of the Bless catalogue makes it possible to discern a coherent position and point of view within it, a position and perspective that consist not so much of the production of an aesthetic as a politics of forms.

This politics is based on a complete programme, a deft mechanics of circumventions, infiltrations, concealments, disguises and rejoinders. It is a politics rooted in a means of coexistence and intersubjectivities that incorporate the invisible manifestations of the present, the factories great and small in which an object's reality is the transient result of 'what we do together'. Hybrid and reconstructable elements, puzzle packaging, couplings of materials, inversions and displacements of the signature, improbable combinations - all are manipulations that converge on that obsession with interactivity that was marked the history of these last twenty years.

It is a moment informed by a common fear of separation, a heightened consciousness of the effects of rerealisation, standardisation, distancing and channelling. Bless takes up residence within the circumstances offered by the present, and it does so in order to transform its life context into an enduring universe. It jumps on the bandwagon as a 'lodger' within the culture. It is a moment when modernity resides in practices of bricolage and reuse of cultural givens, in the invention of everyday life and the organization of lived time, objects no less worthy of study and attention than the messianic utopias of the 1970s or the fantasy of newness characteristic of the avant-garde. It is an attitude that has something in common with what the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan called the 'dolce utopia'. Hair, athletic supporters, necklaces, coat hangers, belts, scarves, rings, bracelets, sleeves, straps, socks, adapters, and sashes - all of these are elements that constantly recur and that generate connections, forms that resemble wiring or extensions, the image of a network. taking account of the evolution of living space (increasingly cramped) and the development of modes of transportation and telecommunication, Bless' vision reflects this increasing urbanization of lived experience. It lends expression to these changes by creating spaces of interweaving and interconnection.

All spaces are equally viable - there is no hierarchy among them. The exhibition and the fashion show, the shop and the book - all are occasions to activate these zones of proximity or liberation, to occupy interstices (within the system itself), to manipulate situations, to play with this trade in representations, to generate narratives and indefinite durations, durations opposed to those that dictate the conventions of salesmanship, representation, and performance (those of the fashion show, for example) and visibility.

There is a risk of oversimplification in a rapid reading of the simple content of Bless' propositions. It would be a mistake to reduce them to simple critical gestures that seek to dismantle the codes of the market one by one - the imperative of newness, the passion for the collection and for ownership, the dominance of brands and labels, the notions of luxury, exclusivity and celebrity, in short everything that goes to make up the stereotypical image of fashion, often in a vulgar or exotic manner.

While this critical component is clearly not absent from Bless' programme, it is immediately transgressed by a logic that is considerably more vibrant and alive and also more perverse. That logic exploits the real and symbolic violence of the world of luxury and consumption in order to reveal its hidden dimensions: the imaginary, reverie, desire, the comic, seduction and beauty.

This fictional project fundamentally ridicules the slick and shallow discourse of the purists, which often forgets that a human horizon lies hidden behind social codes and behaviours, a central switchboard of ideas and subjectivities from which it is possible to connect, to meet and to invent a new language.

Thus, the stubborn resistance of the Bless brand is rooted in this very particular manner of not aspiring to the margins as a distant ideal, not attempting to be excluded, but observing the movements and transformations of contemporary society from a vantage point at the centre.

Accessories, wigs and jewellery all form part of this common language as ritualised signs of recognition, indices of the existence of a collective. To wear a Bless wig is to make a show of mutual consent. Every model is unique and belongs to a type; it is a specific fragment carved out within a small totality, a password for a secret ceremony.

From this centre or central switchboard, Bless uses a quiet language that gradually makes the user aware that he or she is moving in a space in which objects are not simply there, but are looking at him or her out of the corner of their eye. The centre points to the house, to the interior that, little by little, has changed in response to technology, which generates a new kind of experience. Electronic devices have made it possible to personalize one's relationship to images, sounds, perception - VCRs, the shuffle function, freeze-frames, new and unprecedented connections - and finally arrive at forms of self-editing. BLESS N°26 Cable Jewellery (the decoration of hidden connections) celebrates this organic and decorative aspect of technology. It shows us how to break free of the obsession with products, how to reinforce the sensory quality of these invisible or discredited objects, how to transfer the elements of this banal interior into a conceptual region that lies somewhere between immaturity and modernity. Once outside the Bless factory, the objects begin to dream. They spread ideas; they are intelligent. They do not create further needs; they enter into a relationship, creating a fictional world in which the user becomes the protagonist of the narrative experience. Bless does not seek to anticipate the misuses of the products it conceives. Instead, it provides for an open space of narration, which they generate without adhering to the rules of normality and functionality. By introducing the electronic accessory, the consumer-protagonist gains access to a kind of 'airtight chamber' between desire and determinism, a bizarre world of the 'infra-ordinary' in which strange stories confirm that truth is often a great deal stranger than fiction and that our everyday experience of objects lacks aestheticism, insolence, and humour.

These stories are in line with a reality of the cultural material that expresses itself in aberrations, transgressions, breakdowns, and failures. By misusing these objects, the protagonist tricks the system and uses devious means to obtain more pleasure than is supposed to be his due. Twisting an object's function is tantamount to paralysing its controls. A new aspect comes into view, which is nameless and incapable of establishing a correspondence with the material world. This hijacking of function is a way of misusing the language, a way of neologisms, odd ensembles that respond less to functional imperatives than to contemporary psychological characteristics. And that means changing from the 'typical user' to the specific image of a character, and image that forms an integral part of the product. To create this object one must also take an interest in this character, its nature, sensibility, and memory.

Through this process of incarnation and personification, Bless becomes both the name of a brand as well as that of a character - man or woman, old or young - whose story is in the process of being written. We discover that character through objects, universes, the choice of graphics, of an image, though the places in which it appears, disappears, and presents itself. Other characters constitute him or her; they form a parallel society.

In this story, the narrator, the characters, and the 'extras' are interchangeable - they circulate freely in the course of the narrative. The character described by Bless does not play a role. It endeavours to grasp the world as a 'reality set'. It is constituted by the sum total of the relationships, situations, and persons that surround it. It knows that there are more and more combinations, more links and fewer points, that new behaviours are taking shape in a group that is in the process of formation, which incorporates many other behaviours as well.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2015 7:33 am
by germinal
Fits Every Style - Retrospective Home Run

I write this text as this book is about to go to print and an exhibition has opened at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam featuring highlights from all Bless' collections to date. The latest collection N°29, the Wallscapes, was developed especially with the exhibition in mind. In fact, this book would be the perfect catalogue for the exhibition, for both cover the same subject and time span. But it is good that this book and the exhibition remain two independent ventures, each with its own identity. Leafing through pages and reading texts requires an entirely different effort and concentration than wandering through a museum. But their natures are also different. This book is like an archive and the exhibition is more of an installation. Furthermore, this book actually includes images of the exhibition, thus giving it the last word, as it were.
The exhibition contains nearly ten years of work and marks the museum's interest in Bless over the same period. The museum has long collected both decorative arts and industrial design in the most classical sense of both genres. But other the last decade we have sought opportunities to give visibility to activities that take place in the undefined areas between these disciplines, to provide a podium for the fascinating phenomena that do not fit within these strict definitions, to create a little more freedom within a clearly defined remit. Bless fit perfectly within this new concept. My initial acquaintance with Bless' work was more or less coincidental, yet inevitable.

Paris: 19 March 1997, 10.30 a.m. Killing time before Martin Margiela's A/W 97/98 show, which is due to begin at 11.45 a.m. I wander around the streets close to the Republique metro station. In a crowded street with bazaar-like shops selling bargain goods such as socks, slippers and kitchenware, I suddenly hear 'oompapa' music. Across the road the street is blocked by a luxury motorcoach. Streams of people jostle for a view. Then amongst the throng of young people I see the telltale white coats and models wearing remarkable outfits in various states of completion and even more extraordinary fur wigs. I know that this must be a show by Martin Margiela, but not the one to which I have been invited. Later I learned that there had been three Margiela shows that day, each for a different section of buyers and the press.
The next day, as I selected items at the Margiela showroom for the museum's collection it became apparent that the wigs were not a product of La Maison Martin Margiela, but of something called 'Bless'. What or who bless may have been was not yet clear to me, but I found the wigs splendid. Bless and Margiela are kindred spirits. Bless' first product thus entered the museum's collection intuitively as part of Margiela's outfits, and it marked the beginning of a decade-long interest and fascination. The wig, for example, graces the cover of Talking to You, which the museum published in 2001; a young Moroccan woman has swapped her traditional veil for the Bless wig and stares confidently and proudly into the camera.
The freedom Bless has allowed themselves over the years and the areas in which they have been active have mirrored the museum's new policy during the same period. How refreshing to follow a label that initially manifested itself in the fashion world and then suddenly expressed an interest in furniture. And then glasses, shoes, bags, radios and so on. Piece for piece, these items correspond to counterparts in the museum that had developed a sort of sleepy presence, but were granted a refreshing revaluation alongside each new Bless offering. Many of Bless' products seem to fit seamlessly within the great diversity of the museum's collections.
Their hairbrush from which a mane of hair flows is the perfect non-functional companion piece to certain surrealist objects in the collection such as Le Cadeau by Man Ray - the flat iron with metal tacks attached to the ironing surface. However, there is no greater contrast imaginable between James Dyson's super-efficient bagless vacuum cleaners and Bless' kid leather-covered vacuum cleaner chair. How much more interesting would the museum's extensive collection of office furniture, telephones, first-generation computers and television sets be if we were to present them as a single enormous installation connected by Bless' marvellous Cable Jewellery.

A few days before the opening of Bless' Retrospective Home Run exhibition, all the highlights from the twenty-nine Bless collections had been unpacked and were standing ready for installation. This seemingly unconnected mass of objects constitutes their oeuvre to date. The connection within the exhibition was provided by Bless' wonderful photo-wallpaper - the Wallscapes - and endless lengths of Cable Jewellery. We are all familiar with the sunsets and woodland scenes that decorated teenagers' bedrooms some thirty years ago. In place of this 'pseudoromanticism by the metre' Desiree and Ines have photographed several Berlin interiors: white-painted rooms with herringbone parquet floors and views onto hectic streets, stuffed with comfortable sofas and neoclassical side tables, and various Bless objects. The rolls of Bless wallpaper were hung on the museum walls but also on three large folding screens.
During the installation there were hilarious moments, as costly and unique mediaeval life-size sculptures were 'desecrated' with glasses and fur wigs. There was also a Babel-like confusion as we attempted to convey to each other the words for knitting, French knitting, crochet, bobbin lace making and tatting in English, French, German and Dutch.
Without any clear predetermined plan, the hundred-some bags, items of clothing and accessories found a place within the many galleries assigned to Bless. One small space became a sort of boudoir complete with bed and a messily stuffed wardrobe. One of the magnificent larger galleries was transformed into the 'leopard room' in which the carved Wooden Clothes Shaped Boxes in the form of Bless knitwear and T-shirts were given their rightful place on a Dutch seventeenth-century rosewood dining table with ebony detailing.
In the stately and richly articulated architecture of Museum Boijmans' old wing, the polished oak panelling and beige travertine floors merge with the equally classical Bless interiors. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish real space from photographed space and the folding screens only add to the sense of disorientation. The classical galleries have taken on the strange alienating perspective that we know from Giorgio de Chirico or Lionel Feininger.
Those visitors to the exhibition who take the time to look around the museum's collections will encounter countless other opportunities for viewing Bless' work in a broader context: the Surrealists, the Cubists, American Pop Art, Droog design and, of course, Brueghel's Tower of Babel.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2015 8:30 am
by germinal
The Effectiveness of Bless Wallscapes

Through one window we can see a building whose greyish-brown stucco and dark staring windows illustrate the tight domestic budget of many Berliners. Through the other window we can see the Mehringdramm boulevard, which climbs gently at this point towards Tempelhof Airport, that Nazi utopia that is scheduled to be turned into a huge entertainment venue once the airport is closed down. The view from this room reveals the leaden weight of history. The room itself is utterly 'now'.
A man lies on a sofa with his back turned toward us. He has removed his shoes. His Chihuahua gazes attentively at the camera. Champagne bottles stand on the windowsill and a beautiful rug lies at the foot of the sofa. There are enigmatic objects all around, such as a cable wrapped in fur. It is a picture of domestic peace and vulnerable intimacy. Maybe a distant, ironic or possibly only a coincidental reference to Warhol's Sleep or Sam Taylor-Wood's video portrait of David Backham sleeping? And just like those films, this picture also crosses boundaries, disturbs the peace.
Apartment #1C Mehringdramm, three by four meters, is one of a series of large-format photographs of interiors that Bless has had printed on fabric. It is the only picture in the series that includes a person - albeit only showing his back side - so only friends will recognise him as Berlin gallerist Alexander Schroeder. Though atypical in this respect, the work conspicuously illustrates the striking effectiveness of Bless Wallscapes.
'There is no private space. There are only varying degrees of public space', says Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Bless' Wallscape pictures alter not only the public nature of the interiors they have photographed but, even more so, the apartment whose walls are decorated with these works. The good of it: you wonder what you've just acquired - is it a useful object, an alien thing, a work of art? Should we hand a picture on the picture? Put a sideboard in front? Hammer a hole into the papered wall? In short: we first have to learn how to live with it.
They are removed from any ironic interpretation of the genre of photo wallpaper. Instead, they aptly illustrate the basic strategy of the two designers by explicitly addressing the potential of photographer, wall-to-wall decoration. While such Wallscapes transport sunsets, galloping horses or mountain panoramas into the 'Sunday parlour' - in other words, domesticate the sublime and lend domesticity a vanishing point - Bless confronts one personal design with another. They provide a twofold perspective: a glimpse inside someone else's apartment and the view from those apartments. And they offer insight into their own take on interior decoration, comfortable living and personal style.
Almost incidentally, Bless Wallscapes also demonstrate how naturally their designs, all too often mistakenly considered extravagant or challenging, fir into everyday life. The fur blanket in #2A Strausberger Platz or an outfit casually hung in the window lend character to the rooms but do not overpower them.
And, as in almost everything they do, Ines Kaag and Desiree Heiss once again show us a way out of the racing standstill of design. Since human anatomy and needs change much more slowly than the market (and upcoming designers) would like, consumers are either under-challenged with pure decoration - or dazzled by sham solutions to sham problems.
'If there is a sense of reality, there must also be a sense of possibility.' Robert Musil writes in The Man Without Qualities: 'So, the sense of possibility could be outright defined as the ability to conceive of everything there just as well might be, and to attach no more importance to what is than to what is not.'
Bless has a highly developed sense of possibility. They do not provide superfluous answers but instead ask surprising questions. The way they ask these questions is both open and insistent. If you gaze for slightly too long, even if in a friendly manner, at a person's face, te mask begins to slip and self-certainty morphs into possibilities. This is the way Bless looks at the entire world.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:24 am
by rjbman
Where in the world are you finding all this?

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Sat Nov 21, 2015 6:34 pm
by dbcooper

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 11:40 pm
by vgtbls

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Sun Jan 03, 2016 8:20 pm
by dbcooper

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Wed Jan 06, 2016 6:19 am
by dbcooper

Taken from the NYT article on Joerg and Maria Koch's home in Berlin. ... tyle.html#

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2016 5:46 am
by sknss

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 12:30 pm
by dbcooper

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Wed Oct 12, 2016 4:54 pm
by Copeland
Sheep blanket, too big to take a complete picture of:


Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 7:42 pm
by Iliam
Sleazenation 1998

click to embiggen


Hanatsubaki 2000 July (via 6qth)


Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 9:41 am
by Iliam
from Self Service magazine, somewhere around 1997/1998.

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:07 pm
by CheerUpBrokeBoy
bless x celine fw17

that's luxury dawg
EDIT it just hit me that it's full fur, if it's real that sucks ass

Re: BLESS -"the meek" -"this house" -"national geographic"

PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:10 am
by hharrissonn
BLESS N°63 Neutra Dasein

This Saturday, our friends BLESS open BLESS N°63 Neutra Dasein at the Neutra VDL Studio and Residences in Silver Lake. This will be the first time that the design duo behind the iconic design studio will be in the same place for an extended time.

Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag founded BLESS in 1997 with Heiss living and working in Paris and Kaag in Berlin. This project curated by Douglas Fogle and Hanneke Skerath brings the two designers and their families together to respond to the unique architectural environment of Richard Neutra’s Los Angles home. They will be BLESS-ifying the home and invite the public to engage with them and the space from July 28 to September 8, 2018.

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences
2300 Silver Lake Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Press Conference on Saturday, July 28th from 4pm to 5pm
Opening on Saturday, July 28th from 6pm to 10pm

Are any of you guys going to this? I'm off work on Saturday and never leave my house so this seems like a good opportunity and is probably going to be beautiful to look at.