Manuel Raeder

"I think it’s very crucial to produce in order to figure out an alternative way of working."

by Asher Penn 
portrait by Ulrich Gebert


BLESS Collected Lookbook Collaborations, 2011

So your work actually became the content of the fashion side of things.
There’s a cycle. Like a lot of my work, it’s about continuity, not just the five minutes in Paris when the collection is presented. It’s also about your life and how you continue it, and how you can have certain continuity through that.
It seems like there are a lot of norms that you’re challenging on a regular basis. This in itself isn’t so surprising, but the fact that you manage to be so productive despite that is unusual. Most people I know that are active thinking this way don’t actually end up making much. It seems like you’re the opposite.
Thanks, that’s a very nice comment. I think it’s very important to say no. At the same time I think it’s also important to create things, to have an alternative. If you start thinking about the economy, capitalism, and even the art world, it’s important to have a standpoint, and yet to still try and propose alternatives. This became more evident with the economic crisis and people being unhappy about many things such as the distribution of labor and wealth. I think it’s very crucial to produce in order to figure out an alternative way of working. What could be an alternative set up for producing, of designing in relation to that? Also the effect it has on the environment, the effect it has on the labor force, the effect it has on distribution…
Where do these philosophies come from?
Well, it’s a combination of course. There is not one specific writer, or movie, or dialogue. We’re all human beings on the planet and there are many things that influence us. A lot of it relates to personal experiences I have with friends, people, family. If you are a designer suddenly under the pressure to produce very heavily and every six months, and this is not good for you anymore, you don’t feel it’s right, and it makes you tired or exhausted, then you need to find a way to change this. Could you do it in a different way, or should you just say no, or quit? These questions are very present for me.

Chewing Gum Font

This reminds me of that early piece you did where you wrote “I could have taken an image blown it up big and put bold type on it. But I chose not to.”  It sounds like you were frustrated.
Yes, this text totally originates from that. It’s a common and cliché perception that things that are said bold, or in big letters, or with a very big bright colors are more important than things that might be small. It’s visible on any level, such as architecture. A big building that has cost millions of euros, you know will receive a lot more attention than an organic self-built structure. It’s about validation. So you have a huge building, very fancy, and glossy and people love it, but they would never pay attention to to a beautifully constructed fence made of cacti that’s been there already for many years, growing slowly. Something constructed organically, like people.
How is your studio structured? You have people helping you, right? How do you delegate?
Typically there are two people that work here, Manuel Goller and Santiago da Silva. But it varies. There are no set rules. For example if Manuel is in the studio, he knows what to do, or to generate his own project. I try to make it so everyone always has their own projects. We’ve had interns here that have basically done a whole biennial. Through curiosity he or she started taking over the whole project and doing almost all the design. The editions for the Biennial came out of this dialogue. It’s a three-way relationship. It’s not just about me, it’s about the artists we collaborate with, the curator, and what position the design takes in relation. And this can all be accomplished through dialogue and discussion, and these decisions can then evolve. And if someone has a very strong personality behind that, even someone that joins the studio and says, “look, we should do this in this typeface.” I think that’s really good. I will not go against it. This is what I mean when I say that you can still then make decisions collaboratively and negotiate things through a dialogue.

Group Affinity Benches, 2011
What’s your home environment like? Do you live with the objects you make?
You would be disappointed. It’s very simple. I’m not so obsessed with design in that sense. I don’t have any known designer furniture in my home if that’s what you mean. I have one of the Group Affinity Benchesin my kitchen even though it gets a bit annoying after I sit on it for a while.
Are you a spiritual person?
Not really. I try to practice Aikido on a regular basis.
How long have you done that for?
Seven years now.
You did an interview with the Aikido  teacher from Paris in the BLESS book.
Both the founders of BLESS have practiced Aikido for many years.  The interview was to thank them them for introducing me to Aikido.
What is Aikido?
It’s a Japanese marital art that is quite young. It was founded during the war. The idea is that you basically don’t answer any violence with more violence. It’s about someone wanting to hurt you, but you’re basically already air, they cannot even attack you. I don’t know if this explains it. It has a lot to do with very round movements. It looks a bit like dancing with two people that do it very well.

From Sex Magazine #1 Fall 2012
Labelled Design