Naama Steinbock: Maybe, even though we're sitting side by side, we should have a conversation by correspondence? There's something romantic about letters. There were times when people wrote letters to each other – not text messages, but real letters. Someone wrote and the other received it and wrote back, and there was a moment or two for thoughts before sending an answer. Those little moments for thoughts are fading away. Everything becomes so fast but much less formulated. Most of what we are both doing is putting thoughts into objects. Aren’t we?
What will be a good way to start a conversation about a conversation? What are we talking about when we talk about design?
Idan Friedman: I like the romantic aspect of letters. Especially since I believe we share a pretty romantic conception of the profession, and it seems that careful phrasing reflects our way of thinking. I also think this is an interesting experiment to leave behind verbal documentation of the process. The work in the studio always produces a trail of objects, drawings, and material attempts. Most words, though they are an inseparable part of the work, remain suspended in the air and forgotten. The balance between the material and the verbal is not documented although they are a very interesting pair.
For instance, I found myself lingering over the sentence you wrote "putting thoughts into objects". I wondered how important is the literal phrasing to the process, and whether we are not usually "thinking through objects." This is a duality that exists even in the title of the exhibition – "Conversation Show." Conversation and material.
N.S: Design is a language and we, as designers, are supposed to communicate our actions. As much as we will learn to master the language of design, our mother tongue is still different. In our case, we dream and think in Hebrew. When a concept is born it is usually vague and phrasing it using words helps to make it precise.
Designing is always manipulative – a designer should predict how his “move,” on an object, will affect the response of another person. He actually puts words in the mouth of the object he is creating, and this object will say those words as long as it lives. It is difficult to be a confused chair or an incomprehensible door handle, so, it is important to remember that we have a big responsibility as designers in that sense as well. Throughout a design process, there are constantly intersections of choices, and a deep and carefully formulated understanding of a newborn concept helps to make correct decisions.
We are so accustomed to working together, so that the conversation between us sometimes becomes almost telepathic. There is something very interesting and refreshing about the fact that this project produces so many conversations, both spoken and now written.
I.F: There is a famous quote that I like: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Talking about the design process will always be deficient when compared to the object itself. And it’s fine, it will be wrong for a design piece to be a direct translation of verbal thoughts. Being poetic and precise is the things that we emphasize, and these things are very difficult to translate from one language to another language.
Both Hebrew and design are languages, and indeed everything we produce (either in action or writing) has to be fluent. But, since the work of translation is almost impossible, I prefer for the design to be precise first, and only then will the verbal language fit in. In my opinion, it has two options: either to somewhat mediate the design, respectable as it may be, or to become an independent textual creation.
It is not always possible to explain the craft of design in words. Intuition is the internal compass that distinguishes between an unnecessary design act and an examination of interesting directions that “feel right” even if they have no explanation or justification. Much of what you wrote actually stresses to me again how much we need to rely on our gut feeling, to create more intuitively.
N.S: I'm not quite sure you understood me before. My intention was not to write in retrospect about design but to phrase thoughts into words in the process itself. After the object exists, there is no need to rephrase it – it is supposed to speak for itself. Writing of that sort has academic importance, but its role is not to correct mistakes. Without, strong and good intuition, it will be impossible to even begin to create something, but the words are what helps translate the gut feelings into deeds – they enable a conversation between the stomach and the head, and between personal motivations and the need to be understood. Phrasing thoughts is what helps to create an object that is understood by more than one person.
I.F: Still, in my opinion, there is an elusive line while working – between what can be expressed in words and what cannot. There are situations where words spoil rather than help. Actions can be analyzed, but decisions come from an internal and non-verbal language. Sometimes, in more complex decisions, there is a need for your mother tongue, and it helps to push forward ideas that are stuck. It’s like moving to an alternate road when one is blocked. When words are used instead of gut feelings, the outcome will mostly feel forced.
N.S: I find that one of the thoughts that occupy us, in general, and especially now, is to succeed in creating poetry out of simplicity. It requires accuracy. We strive to identify the potential of beauty in things that are right under our noses. Like casting players. But then, we still have to make the right “move” so that we can share this joy with everyone. And it requires us to be both the director and the actor himself, with almost complete solidarity with a material/an object/a technique. It requires quite a bit of balance between our desires and the will of the "thing."
You need a completely different language in order to listen to an object, and really understand how it wants to grow and develop – one without words or shapes.
On the other hand, do you think we have silly moments as consumers? To consume as a designer is like knowing a new person as a psychologist – we have more tools than the average consumer. In my mind, these tools actually distance us from consuming “conversation pieces.”
I.F: I think we have a lot of them but in the old sense. Not objects that were created for the purpose of being talked about, but simply ones that there is something to say about. All the treasured items that we collect during our trips and excursions are conversation objects. In the exhibitions we curated, we also chose to display these kinds of objects. It seems that we are attracted to listen to objects with inner content.
Maybe our need to talk about decisions has to do with working together? Do you think that when we work alone, we need the same amount of text as when working together?
N.S: I think there are always words alongside decisions. Someone who is skilled and has a good gut feeling can manage this translation very quickly and then mistakenly think that it wasn’t done at all. But it's always there. Even in small decisions. I think that when the product seems forced, it is only because the translation was not successful. Like an old version of “Google Translate.”
In the conversations between us, our personal thoughts are translated into clearer words. It's like telling someone a dream – it needs the craft of sewing and assembling the story into something more complete. The words become real and understandable instead of just floating in the imagination. From that moment, we can dream together. Wow! It came out a bit melodramatic...
I.F: It is interesting. It seems that the way we look at the process of creation and its connection to words is a bit different, and it took us almost two decades to find out about this. Maybe it's a difference between our ways of thinking, and maybe just the way we analyze the process. It doesn’t really matter, as long as the verbal communication works and we can continue to dream together.
"Dream together" – melodramatic or not – I understand exactly what you mean. Excellent definition.