Godly or garbage, niche or basic, aesthetic or functional, concept sketch or final product — where do you draw the line and why do you care? These questions drive the hybrid design-research practice of Romain Coppin and Alexis Bondoux, collaboratively known as Messgewand and respectively based in Paris and Amsterdam. t
“We always considered our studies to be a bit too conventional,” says the duo. ine years ago at the school of applied arts in Burgundy, France, Coppin and Bondoux originally bonded over a shared skepticism regarding the product-driven nature of their design education. “We were way more excited by questioning the aesthetic rules of design than answering a client’s functional need,” they explain.
Today their practice spans both client work and self-initiated projects — a “two-headed monster that feeds on our respective aesthetic desires,” is how they describe it. As they move between different disciplines, the overarching goal for Messgewand is to critique broader systems of production and representation. Investigating the constructs of taste, materiality, and utility, they examine the forces that shape our relationship to aesthetic appreciation and what happens when you hack them.
What they discover through their research will just as readily take the shape of shimmering fabric-clad lamps like Myth (2018) as it will slip into the realm of pixels and megabytes, like in the case of a the kaleidoscopic series Digital Furniture (2016-2018). But more often than not, the duo’s creations sit somewhere between the digital and the real, frequently taking advantage of bad green screen, CGI backdrops, and exaggerated shadow effects.
Color and texture are paramount to Messgewand’s work. Elements like fluorescent latex gloves, ombré sherbet-hued tapestries, bristling red tinsel, and gloopy blue slime ensure their supersensory creations appear both glamorous and grungy at the same time while there’s an uncanny sense of humor to how they anthropomorphize inanimate objects. Summarizing their slippery aesthetic that straddles both obsessive ornamentation and stark minimalism, Coppin and Bondoux contend, “Messgewand’s identity is our ability to twist it.”