Kossi Aguessy

„VIBE“ High Fidelity Sound System, Photo by Youssef Eskandar Nabil

Kossi Aguessy ist Künstler und Designer mit togolesischen und brasilianischen Wurzeln. Aufgewachsen in New York studierte er später Industriedesign und Innenarchitektur am Central St Martin´s College in London. Aguessy ist bekannt für die Verwendung unterschiedlicher Materialien. Heute lebt der Designer in Togo, Frankreich und den Vereinigten Staaten.
„Flow of Forms/ Forms of Flow“ präsentiert Weiterentwicklungen von Designobjekten aus Aguessys Newbia-Anticipation-Project, einem Designexperiment, das er seit vielen Jahren immer wieder aufnimmt und weiterspinnt. Ausgangsbasis des Projekts ist die Frage, was wäre Afro-Ästhetik heute, wenn sich das Design in Techniken und Formgebungen linear weiter entwickelt hätte und die Entwicklung von Technologien und Techniken der frühen Hochkulturen Afrikas nicht mit der Kolonisation unterbrochen worden wären. Denn was heute als afrikanische Ästhetik gelte, so Aguessy, beruhe häufig auf einer Summe von Entlehnungen, westlichen Nachahmungen und Adaptionen.

In einem Gespräch befragten wir Kossi Aguessy über seine Motivation zu diesem Projekt und seinem Verständnis von seiner Arbeit als Designer.

Kossi Aguessy, Portrait by Tristan Bernabé

Could you please explain more your intentions for starting the „Newbia-Anticipation“ design project already at a young age?

Let’s say I have done some designs simple for a purpose of justice and balance. I grew up in a society with reference on a daily base in terms of objects, habits, models, and none of these were from this continent. […] It all begun with a fatigue of seeing African usual objects, this very ones reflecting the core of entire societies traditions, presented only as antiques, as if we were dead and buried.
These societies had been forced to decline, to forget what and who they were for putting someone’s cultural outfits on, and yes I do believe if they haven’t been forced to this violent morphing, they will have transformed as naturally as the western cultures, and these forms and objects would have provided something totally part of our contemporary life. […] I took the whole process first as an anticipation exercise, as I said because I faced an absence I couldn’t deal with as an human being, as an African, as an African artist.
As a Teenager, I’ve spent my time wondering why in sci-fi movies, every landscape, every object I could see was western or Asian based. I’ve finally understood that somewhere our legacy had been locked in the past, that we couldn’t be „futuristic“ in the eyes of our fellow European, simply because let say it, they did not even consider us being part of the present. Our legacy was considering in the worst cases as backward or, supreme honour, exhibited as relics of lost „primitive“ cultures in western exhibition. Someone had to do this anticipation work anyway, it wasn’t passion driven, it was necessity based. We had to exist. Then I’ve discovered the richness, the incredible complexity of the African everyday artefacts.

„THE STOOL“ Stool, Photo by Johannes Danglehant

Would you still call yourself an „African designer“? Where do you see the problems and difficulties of this classification?

I would like my fellows to consider me as a human being, an artist and a maker (a designer if they want) who happens to be African. […]. I refuse this „African designer“ or „African artist“ because I am perfectly aware of what it carries. This „what“ I’ve being fighting for almost two decades now.
First of all, Africa is a vast continent, not a nationality or a new citizenship (unless someone has created it without broadcasting the information). This continent is even less some sort of a fancy trendy label meant to nourish whatever the fantasies of some of us are.
Add to this analysis the fact I do really fancy the term „designer“ right now, because it had been emptied of it sense and contain, and you will understand why I cannot reflect in the „African Designer’s mirror. Everyone dropping a sketch of a chair every now and then nowadays, claims the “designer“ label. Visit Maison et Objects or the Milan’s Salone Del Mobile, all of it became a bit boring, with the same sempiternal clichés and a serious lack of diversity. Mainstream Design had become a vanity fair made of labels and acquaintances, instead of the wonderful research and evolution field it was meant to be.

Your objects e.g. i-doll are remarkable for their futuristic forms, where is your inspiration for these forms coming from?

Thank you very much; I do sincerely appreciate the compliment. For answering the question, frankly, I do not know. I guess my imaginary is stretched between the past and a step forward the present moment. It all comes very naturally and I just copy images I have in my head. This process is the fastest part of my creation scheme.
In fact, I spend the major part of my time building or finding technical solutions for bringing these images to life, which can be a hard, a painful exercise. But the result and the love worth the pain.

„I DOLL 2 . THE SUN” Sculpture, Photo by Thomas Grougon

What’s your vision for design in Africa? Do you see the design in a certain role?

I think Africa must understand once for good the creative fields are natural resources to be exploited. Design is part of these creative fields. As so it is to be developed with a constant care for excellence, and without complexes. We have to value and develop what we’ve got without trying to mimic or copycat what the west thought us as models. We have to look behind our shoulders, get back to our traditions, seize the best of them and shape a future with it. This without forgetting we are part of the World, totally, unquestionably. The future is for me not only a matter of dialogue with the past but and beyond everything a dialog with the rest of the planet. The Monologs times where some will talk and impose are simply over. The future, from the design perspective, as from a socio-political, economical, philosophical, evolutional prism is mixt and common. Human global society including Africa has no other options. We rise or fall Together. It is time we erase the second part from our minds and seriously work the first one.

Interview by Agnes Stillger.


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