Common stove, BIO 25, Faraway so close, 25th Biennal of Design, Ljubljana
Project financed and presented in the framework of the 25th BIO Biennial Far away so close, Ljubljana.
Curators : Angela Rui & Maja Vardan
“For a long time, people looked at Nature as a Mother with unlimited nursing capacities… but its finite character is now showing more and more clearly.”
Earth is looking more and more like a closed world.
Air, earth and fire have deserted the world of transcendent divinities and entered a category of "non-renewable naturel resources”, “What is eco-sophy?” by Félix Guattari, Lignes publishers.
For a long time, the Tree was the best embodiment of the link between the world where the divinity lived and the inferior domain of humans, or even the under-world where the Tree plunged its roots.
It is the highest biological construction unifying the spiritual – vertical – to the material – horizontal –, with Mankind attending to the crossroads of these two axes.
Slovenia is Europe’s fourth most wooded country, with 60% of its space occupied by forests.
After a year of immersion, matali crasset has created a permanent public project in the town of Kočevje in Slovenia, at the edge of a forest and, nearby, a primal forest prohibited to Mankind.
This work is part of the designer’s thinking on the question of living together and rural life, and is an extension of her questioning about design and its capacity to propose life platforms.
The issue of industrialisation and design at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries was a question of choice of societies. Today’s world is a time for matali crasset to question and call in inspiring figures, from the utopian socialist Martin Buber, the vegetarian anarchist Sophia Zaikowska, the libertarian and pedagogical pacifist Madeleine Vernet, the social inventor Jean-Baptiste André Godin, and others.
The platform imagined for the forest of Kočevje is a synthesis of this research.
Sociability sometimes settles in the interstices at the fireside, literally speaking. In Slovenia, there is still the tradition of the ceramic wood-burner inglenook, often including ovens or benches. So they are both cooking and heating objects, and living spaces for some, as we can see in the house-workshop of Jože Plečnik in Ljubljana.
This type of stove exists in France too – in Alsace, where it is called kachelhofe, kochlofa or kachelow –, in Germany, kunscht, petchka in Russia, kakelugn in Sweden, and so on.
Its operation is based on the feedback from an intense firing of a few hours. Once the fire is out, the stove feeds back the energy, yielding up to 24 hours of warmth.
So it is actually a heat accumulator. A wood stove is preferably built in a rather large room in the centre of the home.
Accustomed to oxymoron, matali crasset moved this interior object to the outside and investing it with the face and form of a protective Golem.
So, this living space on the outskirts of the forest is proposed for the community of Kočevje to invent and propose new sociability and encounter rites.
“matali crasset has developed a critical, constructive process for a year with a team of seven or eight young designers, by marking off the contextual and theoretical land with the help of Simmel, Tonnies, Weber, Buber or Owen, Fourier, Canet and Godin, associating them with the experiments based on literary utopias from Saint Simon to More from Campanella to Kropotkine, crasset has re-thought the arts in a close relation with society while questioning the practice of design from the standpoint of its community socialisation.
Her project for the Biennial ties an exchange system in between the villagers and the forest, placing it in the centre of a community life. To do this, the team generates workshops with those who hold vernacular and popular practices, taking off as much from the carnival as from the labour of miners. The project is organised around three levels of intervention: forest life (using the forest’s potential), life in the forest (revisiting the labour of wooden kitchen utensil hawkers) and the connection with the forest by imagining new relations with it.
Slovenia has 60% of forests where the communities’ past was established. In the village of Kočevje on its edge, the inhabitants used to live more or less on forestry economics. When German populations emigrated to Slovenia, some set up shop in urban areas, and others in the forest. They developed a new economy: handicraft production and itinerant sale of wooden kitchen utensils. This forest also provided shelter for fringe populations, communities and even a hospital during the Second World War. But when Hitler was elected in 1933, the community of itinerants deserted the forest and returned to their country of origin, bringing their know-how with them, and the innovations they had brought to the city then fell into disuse. Today, the only surviving businesses thrive on the sale of lumber, not wood products, and this brings in scant income. The last forestry companies are shutting down and the population is living frugally.
On the strength of this forest, which is no more a place of leisure for city-dwellers than it is an economic resource, matali crasset has developed a project that is both simple and anchored in the local situation. On the grounds of Martin Buber’s theory that primitive communities are germinal entities that never die but are just waiting to be reactivated, and coupled to a careful analysis of political utopias based on the ideas of sharing and community, Occupying Woods could subtly modify the nature of the relation between the inhabitants and their forest.
The stove: When design creates a lasting space of sociability
On the former picnic site of forest miners, matali crasset is pursuing her work of implementing a design that is both pragmatic, utopian and manifest. Based on ornamental stoves in ceramic squares varnished with colours and of various dimensions, these miniature architectures, which are sometimes complex because the superposed levels let one find several heights for sitting and keeping warm, the way they can be found in Slovenian homes, crasset has developed a proposal that will outlive the timeframe of the Biennial and be at the inhabitants’ service for the long term.
The stove foils the unilateral vision of design by bringing out the social side while conserving individual subjectivity. It combines polarities like functionalism and decorative function, customs and imaginations; production and relational systems, usefulness and the symbolic and poetic function. Modest as an object, the stove is both functional and symbolic.
Symbolic in two ways: First, because it traditionally brings families, villagers and communities by its side; but also, crasset associates the stove with the mythical Golem, this peaceful creature of legend made of earth that serves men by protecting them. She has conceived a multifunctional space-stove that not only warms one in the forest, but also provides the leisure of a hot plate for eating and drinking, making tea together or baking one’s bread, playing cards, or gathering at the Wood Festival. The stove warms, but it also takes on the role of the hearth uniting the village inhabitants and the forest. Stopover for the hunters or romantic rendezvous under the moon for lovers, a play area for school kids or a crossroad for mushroom gatherers, there is no doubt that this Golem in industrial ceramic contributes decisively to the re-appropriation of the forest by the vernacular communities.
The common stump, 2017
Bench/hearth of thermal mass with radiating heat, in refractory concrete, covered with varnished earthenware tiles
L 4.5 x W 2.6 x H 2.65 m
Manufactured by Robert Žuman
These project takes place in the main project, Occupying woods
- Mojca Mihailovič-Škrinjar & MAO - Ljubjlana