In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s seminal classic, Le Petit Prince, an adolescent prince who lives on an asteroid learns about the universe slowly through exploration, but falls in love firstly, and most deeply, with a rose. After leaving his rose behind through a long journey across many planets, the Little Prince meets an elderly geographer who has never been anywhere besides his own home, but still purports to know all the necessary facts of the universe as they appear in his careful recordings. The geographer explains that because the Prince’s beloved rose is ephemeral (and would never appear in his thick books of recorded history), it might as well had never existed. But of course, the Prince knows that the love he had for the rose was as real as anything he’s ever known, and it remains in his heart for the rest of the story. Whether the rose, or his love for it, are in front of his eyes (or even if the rose still lives on Asteroid B 612 at all) is beside the point. And that’s exactly what Masayuki Ino, winner of the LVMH Young Fashion Designers Prize 2018, explores in his piece for Art & Residence, the selection of pieces curated by Daniel Arsham for Milan Design Week and presented by StockX.
The chair that Ino has presented from his brand, doublet, is an acrylic fixture covered in a lenticular design that makes the piece either appear as a classic wooden dining chair or disappear entirely, depending on what angle the viewer views it from. It is an intentional trick of the eye, to make this true and tangible thing that is taking up real space and hold the weight of a sitter, seemingly disappear and make the viewer question if they’re even seeing it at all. “What I wanted to express was, ‘Is there a disappearing chair there? Is this a real or virtual space?,’” he says. “I expressed that gap.”
Early on in Le Petit Prince, as the Prince is speaking to an aviator who crashed in the Sahara, he laments his experience with adults and the narrow ways that they think. Upon showing grown-ups a terrifying illustration of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant, the adults are confused as to why they should be afraid of a drawing of a hat. It’s not until the Prince begrudgingly draws a cross-section of the snake that the adults understand, but even then, it is with rolled eyes. For Ino, his chair requires the agility of interpretation that the Prince demands of all of us. “I haven’t designed this chair at all,” he says. “I expressed something as it is. People who saw my chair from one angle said, ‘It was a transparent chair,’ and another person who saw it from another angle said, ‘That’s a wooden chair.’” They’re both wrong as much as they are both right. Holding both ideas at once is the only way to make sense of it. Unless, of course, the point isn’t to make sense of it at all.
The depth of the piece, as Ino describes it, is best summed up in one of the most famous lines from Le Petit Prince, “L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” In English, “That which is essential is invisible to the eye.” As Ino explains, “When you can’t see it, you may feel ephemeral and it may look really important.” Like the Prince carries his love for the beloved rose far beyond the boundaries of his travel, likely long after the rose would eventually die, that which is real needn’t be visible or tangible. They need only be known.
doublet’s work is on display during Milan Design Week along with the other creatives involved in the Art & Residence Program presented by Daniel Arsham and StockX. “Art & Residence” presented by Daniel Arsham & StockX explores this converging of worlds and taps non-traditional creatives to push the boundaries of what a chair can be. From fashion designers to architects, “Art & Residence” bridges creative communities – from the world of StockX, to the storied platform of Milan Design Week. For more information on the creatives involved in the program, you can click here.