Exercises in Seating
Our friend Max has a wonderful fascination with the not so humble chair. A passionate interest that has driven the creation of over 40 chairs in the past ten years. It is a collection of work that speaks of seating but more than that they are works that make visible Max’s boundless curiosity with material and process. ‘Exercises in Seating’, an exhibition held in Milan in April and in New York last month is now all gathered in a corresponding book that exemplifies his approach.
In this video, commissioned by Nowness, Max talks about keeping his hands busy and the process of making chairs. The backdrop - ten years of seating jam-packed into his dining room and then in the workshop below.
‘Seating has been an outlet for me for experimenting with ideas, experimenting with materials, experimenting with processes’
For millennia people have needed a place to sit. Chairs go back through classical times to the beginning of humankind, when we raised our body from the damp and cold floor, and in doing so distinguished ourselves from the animal world. The simple act of constructing an artificial place to sit has long been part of our culture. What began as a stool or bench evolved into a chair reserved for nobility, kings and lords. The backless and simpler version remained the primary seat of the lower strata of society until the Renaissance when it became the customary companion of whoever could afford to buy it.
A Chair symbolises the life and time of its design, and it is amazing what we can learn about a maker, a designer, a consumer and a culture through this one typology. A chair, stool or bench usually carefully combines form and function and it is a balance that is difficult to perfect. It is fair to say that a designer’s entire philosophy can be summed up by the chairs they bring forth. With Max’s chairs it feels like the function is not necessarily the primary concern, form neither, they are considerations for sure but more importantly the chair is a typology for experimentation for learning and discovery. A “Jack of all trades” is an unfortunate putdown these days however in times past it was an entirely positive approach to a working life. Max may be the wonderfully positive modern “Jack of all trade” a master of interrogation knowing enough about many disciplines in order to break forward into new ground in unexpected ways. We look forward to what comes next.
‘I find the act of sitting such a kind of strange past time, or strange habit – the need to sit down’
Video commissioned by Nowness, directed by Barbara Anastacio
Quotes by Max Lamb