Sunday, 20 September 2015


A publication that I have some new text published in...

And some of the text:


The same thought developed through different mediums leads not only to diverse outcomes, but to results which definitively modify the original notion itself, incorporating the qualities and nuances gathered during the idea’s journey to realisation in a given format, so that the more a notion is explored through varying means, the richer, stranger, more unpredictable the initial mental construct becomes. In complete contrast to scientific method which seeks the concrete binary of refutation or affirmation of its initial object, the more one explores a concept through various mediums using a poetically motivated, exploratory method, the more slippery, obscure, multivalent, distant, strange and beautiful the initial object becomes. It is for this reason that my practice involves the simultaneous pursuit of creative exploration in as many diverse forms as I can practically manage. Any medium which has come my way, whether it be blogging, poetry, animation, film, interiors, painting, urban design, architectural form, tweeting, drawing, 3d printing, rendering, GIFs, whatever, I have retained it as one more way to tease out the unexpected strangenesses latently embedded somewhere inside the limited stockpile of notions I have in the locker of my mind. I do not seek out constant newness, nor originality, rather I am on a journey to both accurately pin point a kernel of pure subject at my core -what Isaiah Berlin called our “Inner Fortress”, or the place to where you find yourself converging at the end of all your multifarious explorations in life; and to simultaneously expand that core, to gently unravel a vast surface area from its infinitesimally compressed point using the poetic method previously stated. In this manner I believe that I can be hugely enriched by coming into contact with the real world in a dizzying variety of ways, places, forms and contexts, but without ever losing myself; and conversely that I can give something truthfully of myself, to the world. This is my Architecture, my method, my poetry and my beauty.


Obliquite : Hello Adam Nathaniel Furman, thank you for accepting this interview. You have a very prolific and interesting body of work, but before looking at all its facets, I would like to ask you about your education in Architecture. What have you learned in Architecture? Do you think it is very different than an education in design?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

I am drawn to the sobriquet ‘designer’ because I find it to be an untainted designation that speaks of the act of intentionally premeditated creation in the most general and liberating sense, whereas the title ‘Architect’ is polluted by all kinds of professional associations & obligations, like being a ‘chartered accountant’ as opposed to a ‘mathematician’. Whilst I am drawn to the name, I however don’t know at all what constitutes an education in design. Terrible I know! I am at least more aware of Architectural education in general and the majority of it was not particularly appealing, which led me and many others to the AA, specifically because it has a rather wonderful history of approaching pedagogy in its own unorthodox fashion. The undergraduate and diploma school is divided by year into units of around 10-15 students, with each one being driven by a strong character purveying a distinct notion of what constitutes the practice of architecture. The idea behind this set-up being that all your notions and beliefs are shaken to their very core every single year (ideally you hop from unit to unit annually), and by moving through the various ‘isms’ this constant action of fundamental reappraisal and adaptation first of all allows for the survival of absolutely no preconceptions or prejudices whatsoever, but simultaneously and perhaps more importantly broadens the horizon of potentiality, of what is possible if you are able to form your own singular and meaningful take on the art, rather than narrowing it down and imposing contemporary orthodoxy as many other schools do. A very important aspect of this process is the adversarial edge which colours much of the debate within the school, and which forced me to become acquainted very early on with the necessity of standing up unapologetically and with robust arguments for my work and my position, whatever that may have been at any given point. I think it’s a great thing to learn early on that there is no absolute in the arts, that all positions are arbitrary, and yet to know that it is the staking in the ground of your own marker despite this, in triumphant disdain for this, which allows for you to grow the roots from which will eventually emerge your own body of work.

Obliquite : You started your practice as a designer with Madam Studio. What interested you in objects? Is it the idea of collection and multiplicity for example ?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

By nature I have always had one foot in the world of digital media, theory, internet culture, the ephemeral cornucopia of popular culture, and the other foot in the world of physical ‘artefacts’, object-relics, of porcelain, glass, plastic and bronze. Objects have a privileged position as mediators between these two worlds of the physical and the intangible, they are not so distanced from the cultural notions of their genesis as is architecture because of the incredible amount of compromise and time it takes to get a building built, nor are they destined to disappear as quickly as the ideas and fads that brought them about as with the garments and accessories of fashion. They are a bit of both. I don’t value the one more highly than the other, they feed into each other; however where content produced online and notions formed in print come and go at an ever increasing velocity, objects remain. Physical artefacts, no matter how they are made, no matter what they are, become cultural relics, small cross-sections through a tangible area of a given culture at a very specific moment in time. As an artist/designer I feel like I am endlessly pouring energy into a colourful and ever-changing digital maelstrom in which things hold their shape for only the briefest of moments. It is exciting, liberating, exhausting, self-destructive, but I keep doing it because out of this maelstrom, out of this vicious engagement with the contemporary falls objects, designs, artefacts, evocative things, relics which have a permanence to them. People have an innate sensitivity to objects that have been mediated in some way, either by time and a journey, or by having had an unusual mix of reasons for their making. We like to not only possess such things objectively, we like to possess them also with our imaginations, and the combination of an object being evocative in its design, together with the knowledge of it having had some kind of unusual story, but without anything being stated explicitly, allows our imaginations to grasp upon the artefact’s form with our curiosity and construct our own narratives, our own histories, and through this take possession of a thing fully, with our mind and not just our wallet. This is the key difference between goods straight off the manufacturing line, presented in a shop with an identity clearly proscribed by a marketing campaign, and art-objects, or even old manufactured goods in a bric-a-brac sale which have either lost their original given identities, or never had them in the first place. Objects such as these are and always will be enticing because they are immensely powerful tools at the behest of our imagination, it is through them that our imaginations construct our own micro-histories, which imbue our daily reality with depth and magic. They are the inverse companion to the smart digital device. Where a smartphone is all function and no form, consuming the mind’s attention in endless diversion, evocative objects are all form, and function purely to focus the mind’s power in curiosity and imaginative construction. The one is not better than the other, in fact the more ubiquitous the one, the more the other is needed. As a designer I am interested in exploring the power of the object as an evocative cultural artefact, and rather conveniently its most immediate form is in that of the domestically scaled object.

Obliquite : You have developed the ability to express a same question in an incredible array of mediums. Was there a shift in your work when you started using those? Is this freedom allowing you to go deeper in your research?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

I have always been a very firm believer within my practice of making sure that I am as up to date and knowledgeable as is personally possible with current technologies & softwares, not because of any sort of technophilia, but in order that I will in no way be restricted by the constraints of any one medium or any handed-down set of mediums. I think that the more techniques you are able to work through, the less your ideas and praxis will be defined by any given process, and so the more technology we can use as artists & designers, the more transparent our work may become to the complexities of our creative explorations, our ideas, our personalities, and the less it will become muddied-by and mixed-up with the practicalities of one particular technique. It’s an approach very much in opposition to the traditional notion of the artist-as-craftsman working with an ‘authentic’ technique which they become allied to and somehow embodies their practice. Video, Poetry, Prose, Blogging, Painting, Sketching, Installation, Events, Meals, Sculpture, Interiors, Facades, Projections, Ceramics, 3d printing, Performances, the more the better, and the freer we are. So on the one hand this approach distances the traditionally symbiotic relationship of the artistic idea to its method of realisation; but on the other –and I have found this to be paradoxically liberating- it very much deepens and alters that initial idea in a vibrant, destructive, unexpected and continually transformative process. It perpetually critiques the idea. No matter what I may want, every medium transforms its generative idea through the exigencies of its own internal logic, meaning that the intent is always different to the outcome. As such, each time I create something in a new form with a new technique, a mirror is held up to me in which I see my work anew in a monstrously bastardized form, forcing a rereading, forcing a revaluation, forcing a shift in my position. This approach is indeed partly about freedom, but a searching and reflexive freedom, it is about simultaneously holding onto the core of your ideas whilst continuously putting them to the test, throwing them to the dogs, and watching them evolve and grow each time you do so. Each new medium puts me and my illusions on trial, and each time I have to formulate a specific defence. It keeps me on my toes, keeps the mind sharp, and the work alive.

Obliquite : You play with those mediums like layers on Photoshop, adding different content and playing with contrast and saturation to make different informations appear (both in the real and figured sense), how do you structure those? Is it pre-established?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

To explain the interrelationship of mediums within any given project I often use the analogy of the sketchbook. Within the pages of a sketchbook, an architect or artist mixes a dizzying array of outputs and observations with poems mingling between sketches, excerpts from books, musical notations, plans, watercolours, fragments of letters, cut-outs from magazines, personal reminders, ideas for fiction, story-boards, a whole cross section of his or her creative existence. Each of these acts or notations is a semi-complete fragment, and when considered together with others of its type on all following pages, forms a coherent thread running through the book. So on the one hand you have clear threads of investigation slowly developing their own logic, threads which define the categories that make up an individual’s practice, and on the other you have an incredible amount of cross-fertilisation going on within each sheet, page by page, because these fragments inform and effect each other. Within the range of a few pages the relationship between a story about a giant, the plans for an ideal house, and the sketch of a series of garages will have more effect on each other, will transform the way the entry immediately following them is formed, than they do on the greater thread of their category throughout the sketchbook. Unexpected things happen in sketchbooks, strange analogies develop, concrete beliefs emerge from chance juxtapositions; out of Corbusier’s sketchbook emerged the combined image of an upturned fishing-boat with that of the section of a light-well in Hadrian’s Villa, giving us a world famous chapel. The selection of mediums for a project is important for me because it is exactly this process I need to set up, they need to be able to speak to each other, they need to cross fertilise with each other at each given moment and take me somewhere new, but they need to be discrete, to have their own clear threads and identities. That is why I cannot use a Photoshop layer metaphor which relies on transparencies and merging. The various explorations need to have their own integrity, to be composed of beautifully crafted fragments which speak to the fragments produced in other mediums, and influence their next generation, but which do not hybridize, they do not bleed into one another. It is a minestrone not a creamed soup. It is a parliament of debating parties composed of fierce individuals who often agree with other parties, but generally tow the party line, and who ever-so-occasionally alter the party manifesto through a set of new beliefs found through back-of-house late night discussions.

Obliquite : Video seems to be your latest medium, why is that? How do you deal with its ephemeral yet reproducible nature, which is very different than architecture or object?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

I was very lucky to study under Pascal Schoening in my fourth year (2006). He ran a brilliantly fuck-you unit on filmic architecture in which we were encouraged to think of design as a process of poetic dematerialisation rather than of construction, a process of posing questions and finding enigmas, it was a year in which we were supposed to spend a long time getting lost, and whose end results were often terrible films that lingered on reflections in puddles and such, and which often meant the student in question had to retake their year (it was an architecture school after all…). Each term however there were films that managed to capture some of the mystery that attracts the poetically minded to architecture in the first place, and it is the large body of these over the years that makes Diploma 3 an important marker in recent architectural thought. I had developed a narrated approach the previous academic year (2004 –I worked in OMA 2005-2006) under Katrin Lahusen, and for me in Pascal’s unit and after, video became a way that I could bring together in an immediate and digestible manner what were often extremely broad projects, with several parallel threads, explored in multiple media and through often contradictory tangents. It allowed me to add an extra layer of added comprehensibility to my work, a layer that would also serve to situate it in a broader cultural context, and hence circumvent the need for criticism to wade through the obsessive depths of all the material which went into its formation. This notion that a work can have several layers to it, with the initially approached surface being the most instantaneous and easy to comprehend, and with each further layer penetrated leading you to more complex, more problematic currents and material beneath, is an approach I discovered starting with film, in Pascal’s year. There is of course a bit of a chicken and egg element to this as the films I make are invariably being made while I am writing and while I am designing, and these elements all change each other dynamically, so it is not simply a matter of the one being a presentation tool for the other at all; however the very nature of video is that it’s quick to digest, easy to grasp, simple to communicate, and with regards to the internet, it is brilliantly viral and wonderfully easy to embed in a wild variety of contexts, and so becomes a useful semi-autonomous masthead for my work. I previously described objects as being of interest because they straddle the boundaries of the ephemeral and the concrete, well video interests me in those terms as well, but rather because it straddles the boundaries between content and form. The kind of videos I try to make are like ultrasounds taken through the belly of the mind, whilst it is pregnant giving genesis to the lovechild of my Mental energies and external Material things. I sometimes explain them as being along the lines of what would be captured if Spok were digitally recording a mind-meld on an artist at the moment of his or her creative apotheosis. But then of course put on YouTube. Video is simultaneously Poetic ultrasound and Mass communication device.

Obliquite : In terms of heritage, to which group, movement, or figure in history would you feel close to?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

So many. My library is my happiness. I have so many wonderful friends and beautiful passages and gorgeous obscure drawing plates and alternative views on the world hidden in the pages of my books. Moving flat causes me long standing and acute anxiety, because I draw so much security and rootedness from knowing in what books are a whole undepletable cornucopia of inspiring and endlessly fascinating things, and the knowledge of exactly where each of those books are in space, so that I can reach out at any given moment and be transported to a particular world of fancy, gives me such a sense of pleasure that when my collection is in disarray, randomly piled-up in corners, hidden in boxes, it is as if someone has taken a chainsaw to my brain, or fried my hard drive. I have favourites of course, but I am fickle and the pantheon is like the school playground, with classmates constantly dropping in and out of my top 10 bestest best friends, whether it be Balzac, Rossi, Vignola, Ungers, Dostoevsky, Corbusier, Kahn, Rem, Stirling, Sottsass, Alberti, Plecnik, Fornasetti, Rowe, Johnson, Libera, Blunt, Thomas, Borges, Neruda, Bunuel, Bramante, Lutyens, Norman-Shaw, Minghetti, Doccia… There is always a ‘current pantheon’ pile by the bath…

Obliquite : I would like to focus now on one of your latest project, called “Identity Parade”. For 3 months, you have played a fictional designer producing 3D printed objects. Using blogs, 3D, videos, pictures, and a whole lot of crazy thoughts, you let your feelings go. Was it so fictional after all? Did you play the role, as a digital theatre piece?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

It was very important for me that all the objects, the collection and the stories in ‘Identity Parade’ have a very tangible intensity, that the stories were pulsatingly real and that they very much were the reason behind every single inflection in each object in the collection, every change of colour, every pattern. For this to happen I had to live the project. I used the Greek theatrical technique of masking so that I could allow myself to become the character, so that I could embody the issues and stories he was pursuing to extremes that I would never have been able to if I was just writing as an objective creator, as the distanced “auteur”. He was not me, but I was him. I really did effectively lock myself in the flat for that 3month period of time, stewing in my juices, plugged in 14hours-a-day to my laptop, endlessly writing, re-writing emailing, drawing, designing, worrying, getting paranoid, imagining the tales and situations to such an extent that they really did become my reality for a time. It was a bit too intense by the end, and I am only now fully recovering from the partial mania I had descended into. It was worth it, but really, really, really the old saying is true that you need to beware the mask unless before you know it, it becomes you.

Obliquite : Each object has been defined by the mood, the references and the imagination of your character, how would you define those objects? Are they useful? Are they narrative? Poetic?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

They are evocative artefacts, and when combined they create very specific atmospheres. Their purpose is to inspire imaginative contemplation, to evoke something which is not clearly defined, but somehow nonetheless interesting enough to warrant the observer’s speculation. If you have ever entered the living room of someone recently deceased, you will know how powerfully their collected belongings are redolent of who they were, what was important to them. The effect is even more powerful when the space has been orchestrated by a collector, someone who consciously externalised their values and passions into their surroundings. Each item, every framed drawing, every figurine and model car has a specific tale to tell, however when the objects are all united in a domestic setting their chronological order and specific narratives are moot, it is rather the effect that they have combined which is so potent; their individual qualities rapidly collect in profusion until the point at which we can no longer discern individual items, rather they collapse in our cognition into an atmosphere, they become a singularity that is greater than their constituent parts, a singular atmosphere which conveys an essence of the person from which it originated. There is a tradition of arranging found objects in such a way as to imply such a condition, or of museums reconstructing imaginary versions of such environments with objects from a given period, however I have a rather conservative view on this; I believe that such an atmosphere can only exist and trigger the imagination of an observer if the stories embedded within each object and which brought the objects together were actually enacted, are really contained within the confines of an object’s form, and it is only when an observer believes this that their broader disbelief can be suspended, and they may allow their imaginations to run free. Some museums have the entire studio of an artist at the point of their death moved into their gallery spaces, eerie under the shadow-less lights, powerfully evocative of their creative minds, I wanted this collection to have these qualities and resonance, hence the intensity in the work, and the intensity with which the character is worked out intimately and at every point in relation to the objects, even if most visitors never really understood this cognitively, I think it came across quite potently as a clear impression. The objects in Identity Parade have swallowed and digested their narratives into their forms, are poetic in the degree to which they suggest things without answering any questions, and are as useful as the mind can make something without allowing the hands to touch.

Obliquite : You use fiction a lot, which is a common point to other designers involved in this publication, would you say that fiction is blurred with reality ? That fiction creates the real? Is it a tool or a result? 

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

In a way there is no such thing as Fiction, or else equally everything is fiction. It is the privilege of the dominant, of the elite, of the majority and of the status-quo to define what is fiction and what is not. The Histories we are taught, the explanations we are given at school, the news we are pumped full of on a minute-by-minute basis, these are all tales told to enclose us in an all-encompassing fiction that is so absolute and pervasive that it becomes this slippery things known as reality, simply by virtue of being everywhere, reiterated constantly. These meta-narratives use facts as justification, as strobe lights to blind us from all the fanciful story-telling that makes up the majority of what we are told, distorting them in any case in such a wilful manner as to render them equal in weight to a plot twist in Dallas. Maintaining that ‘Fiction’ as a notion is confined to the safe-zones of novel writing and drama is how we manage to constantly deflect our attention away from the terrifying fact that our entire society, all our values, everything we think of as real, meaningful and substantive, our identities, it is all a fiction as fabricated as the plot of Orange Is The New Black, La Perla Negra or Infinite Jest. When the Iron Curtain fell, a reality revealed its fiction as it disappeared in a puff of smoke, and ours could do likewise at any given moment. I am no revolutionary, but as a designer I am acutely aware of the proliferation of ugly, sodden stories endlessly repeated around us and which form a virtually inescapable web of dissatisfaction, fear, emptiness, greed and hatred. I believe that as we bring objects and buildings and digital whatever into this world it is in our power to re-write a tiny part of the great fiction. Each time we act as midwife to a beautiful design, may we also bring forth a beautiful tale that tells of a way in which one of us or some of us can see things a bit differently, a way to carve out a negative space in which we may begin to construct a world of our own. It is not a matter of whether we use fiction or not, we use it either way, it is simply a matter of whether we mindlessly accept the fiction of given reality as a fact, or whether we decide to face the arbitrariness of everything we thought so solid, and consciously articulate it, modify it, cut it, bleed it, sever some of its countless limbs and start to form the stories which together with our designs, our plans and our energies will allow us to begin rewriting that little part of the world around us that is within reach of our feeble grasp.

Obliquite : Just to finish, the aim of this publication is to discuss the existence of a new paradigm in design. Would you say that there is such a thing happening? What form would it take ?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

I have no idea! Many critics and collectors and journos are endlessly bemoaning a lack of cohesion in the arts at the moment, they are castrated by the flood of newness, they cannot categorise and critique and box things and say who is in and who is out at a fast enough rate to keep up with what is going on. They are flummoxed by new practices. Let them die. For me the most exciting thing that I am beginning to see is designers and architects and artists who are at once critics and practitioners, collectors and consultants, scientists and PR gurus, salesmen and mystics, who conflate a whole bunch of roles into one, who each in their own way are starting to inch towards a final negation (it has been so long in coming!) of the modernist division of knowledge and labour into arbitrarily discrete areas of professional ‘competence’. The new paradigm might be the melting of all professional categories into a primordial soup at the dining table of Art.

Obliquite : Thank you Adam Nathaniel Furman. Just to finish, what have you planned for the future?

Adam Nathaniel Furman :

I have been awarded the UK Rome Prize for Architecture 2014, and so will be residing in Rome for six months, exploring a city that I find endlessly fascinating, safe in the knowledge that for a not insignificant period of time I can avoid thinking about the fact I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do afterwards, or in my life generally. If any readers have any suggestions please contact me, I am all ears. 

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