Mary Poppins Mashup: Phillipe Starck Unveils His Latest Bright Idea

“This is Baccarat, not Ikea,” famed French designer Philippe Starck says of the Marie-Coquine, a whimsical new chandelier that made its debut in this year’s Milan furniture fair.

Mary Poppins Mashup: Phillipe Starck Unveils His Latest Bright Idea
Jean-Jacques Larrochelle

Uber-designer Philippe Starck's latest chandelier for Baccarat Crystal looks not unlike one of those medieval catapult machines used for hurling rocks over castle walls onto a surprised enemy. And its imposing but slender shape seems similarly set to startle those who thought they were already familiar with the work of this internationally-acclaimed French designer.

The Marie-Coquine, part standing lamp and part chandelier, was presented at the Palazzo Morando during last week's famous Milan furniture fair, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The Starck contraption is the centrepiece in Baccarat's "Highlights Collections," which also includes the work of seven other designers (Arik Levy, Eriko Horiki, Michele De Lucchi, Jaime Hayon, Moatti & Rivière, Studio Baccarat and Yann Kersalé).

Starck's new design for the show has been jealously guarded up until now. Suffice it to say, the suspense has now revealed a work that is proving to be one of his most original.

It is a composite work that seems to channel, in its creator's own words, "the spirit of readymade and dada." It juxtaposes a boxer's punching bag with the Zenith, an iconic Baccarat chandelier from the golden age of this ancient French crystal house, originally founded in 1764. Upon the chandelier, Starck has place an umbrella. The whole thing is attached to a photographer's mobile tripod, making it a deliberately portable object, as well as a balancing one, thanks to the fixture's rigid steel pole, which works like the beam in a pair of scales. Originally designed more than a decade ago, it has taken Starck two years to perfect in the run-up to the show.

"The name Marie-Coquine is a clear reference to Mary Poppins," the designer explains. "She is a woman who does this brilliant and magical thing. It is a truly surrealist act. She rises up in the air with her umbrella. I find this to be a rather wonderful form of motion. And light is also motion. When she rises up like that, something happens. It's a creative surprise."

A prolific designer who claims he is "not intelligent but profoundly intuitive," Starck became well known above all for his elegantly curved everyday objects, which he designs with a touch of humor and inventiveness. In his fourth decade of designing, the 62-year-old's body of work is so vast that no one tries any longer to keep track of the countless design lines he has produced over the years. His objects are ubiquitous in the world of popular taste: electrical appliances, utensils, furniture, clothes, luggage, vehicles, etc.

With the Marie-Coquine, the still very much detail-oriented designer seems to propose new and radical departure in his work, one that puts an emphasis on heterogeneity. The chandelier is almost like a cadavre exquis (exquisite corpse), a surrealist's take on the old-fashioned parlour game Consequences, which involves collectively assembling a disparate grouping of words or images. Here Phillipe Starck seems to be creating his own personal merger of functional imperative and suggestive imagination.

The chandelier also makes you think of the Italian brothers Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, designers whose influence Starck has acknowledged. Working between the 1950s and 1970s, they were geniuses at the art of salvaging and recycling, able to distill things into new forms. The most impressive example of the brothers' work in Milan is the Floor lamp Toio (1962), an assembled work consisting of a transformer, a brass stem, fishing rod loops and a car headlamp.

"A human zone"

In the same spirit, much later on, Philippe Starck developed the ‘Gun" collection for Flos, an Italian light fitting manufacturer. He reworked Kalachnikov assault rifles and M-16s with gold plating, and turned Beretta pistols into lamp bases. Then there was his Louis Ghost armchair, whose polycarbon material revisited the Louis XVI style with an ironic twist.

With this latest chandelier, the designer's creative gamble is of a whole different nature. "Some people do not have enough space, while others have too much," Starck explains. "When you are talking about Baccarat, you're talking about objects that are expensive to construct, so this is not about people who lack space. I am trying to protect people who have a surplus of space from feeling lost in it – in that kind of immensity - by creating a poetic space, a virtual space that has elements of surprise but also human warmth."

His dream is to create "a space within a space, a portable human zone in one's own home," but done in a luxuriant way. "This is Baccarat, not Ikea," Starck insists. Indeed, the Marie-Coquine is set to retail at 29,000 euros.

For the Milan furniture fair, Starck chose to use "retail objects, but reworked. If I had designed a lamp base in forged metal on the scale of luxury Baccarat required, it would have become something completely pompous and ridiculous: something a coke dealer in Miami would buy."

The artist is instead choosing a modest "less is more" approach these days. The Marie-Coquine is a case in point. "It is about staging the unbelievable and the luxurious – but done in a deft, economical way."

Read the original article in French.

Photo - pmo

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Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.

"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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