Interview: Humans since 1982 and Suvi Saloniemi with a preface by Andrea Lipps , October 2014

This interview was published in Beauty–Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. New York: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 2016. Print. 

Humans since 1982 (Stockholm, Sweden, founded 2010)
Humans since 1982 forge graphic and mechanical expression to create conceptual objects that expand traditional function. A specimen study of LEDs serves as a light. Analog clock hands become typography. Their work is unified in its elegance, if not its color palette—black and white—and most often explores the ephemeral qualities of time or light. Their kinetic projects include the clock A Million Times (2013), made in collaboration with electrical engineer David Cox. The hands of 288 analog clocks rotate each minute until they pause to unveil a digital presentation of the time; a moment that is lost as the clock hands rotate again. The piece comments on the ephemerality of time, while also creating a new visual expression in its presentation. Having met during their MA studies at Sweden’s HDK School of Design and Crafts, founders Per Emanuelsson (Swedish, b. 1982) and Bastian Bischoff (German, b. 1982) remain deeply curious about the natural and material realms, reflected through the lens of their respective fields. Emanuelsson had previously studied mechanical engineering; Bischoff, graphic design. —Andrea Lipps


Interview with Suvi Saloniemi

Your work exists somewhere between functional design and art object. What is important in your design?

Bastian Bischoff: We wrote our graduate thesis about function and experience, proposing that the experience, or the fascination of people looking at an object, is also a function. It is the function of fascination.


We can see from your work that you are creating objects that are collectible design and not mass produced.

BB: Yes, everything we have done so far is only collectible, limited edition. But we're also planning out for the future more serially produced objects.

Per Emanuelsson: That was mainly because there was no producer that picked up our early pieces.

BB: We started to work with different galleries, and they supported the development of unique work. I'm quite happy that we ended up this way, because for us this field is more interesting than serial furniture production.

Why is that?

BB: There is more space for conceptual thinking without the restriction of cheap producibility. Often a producer requests a lot of change and compromise in an object so that it is mass producible. Without that, we have more freedom.

How do you work together? What are your processes and methods?

PE: In the beginning, we didn't have any clients, so it was more open and we would look for a starting point. But now it often happens that the gallery comes to us and asks for a new work, or a client comes to us and asks for an installation in a particular space.

BB: We've tried to follow technology or social phenomena, and then if one of us has an idea about a certain topic, we just tell each other, and it's going back and forth. And if we think it's strong enough, then we go for it. But there are a lot of ideas which have never happened because we don't find the right way to make it really
good, or at least not yet. Maybe in the future we'll find a little tweak that might make a particular idea great.

And do you have certain roles in the process? Your backgrounds are so different: technical engineering (PE) and graphic design (BB).

PE: When it comes to the idea, the core, we are on the same level. But of course, we each have practical skills to solve different problems in the process.

Can you use A Million Times as a reference? How did you work with that?

BB: It started as a font. We made this clock showing letters, and then it developed into showing digits with clocks, and then showing the time with clocks. It was all digital in the beginning, and we made a little video and uploaded it on YouTube. It got quite a lot of reactions just based off this. Some people were wondering if it was
a real thing or just animated.
And then we got in contact with Saatchi Gallery, who wanted to have it for an exhibition. We had to kind of make it real within a quite short time—maybe two months or something. David Cox, who is the electrical engineer behind this project, helped us to turn it from a digital version into manual clocks that are interconnected and run by a small computer.

Are there other people, aside from David, who you work with during your process?

BB: For production, we have to use companies that are specialized in producing pieces of aluminum and other components that we cannot produce by ourselves.

PE: We also cooperate with different galleries, so far in Brussels, New York and Mumbai. Victor Hunt often manages the production of the housings in Belgium; other times we produce here in Sweden. We always develop the electric technology, so it's partly assembled before we install it into the aluminum. We are a quite small studio, so we need some support to finish up all the projects.

What comes into your mind when you hear the word "beauty"?

PE: People. Beauty is very connected to people and image.

BB: Yes, in the media, beauty is very connected to the image. Two hundred years ago, it was more philosophical or deeper. But I think that in perhaps the last eighty to hundred years, beauty has become more about the surface.

And how does beauty relate to your work or your aesthetic?

BB: It's more like intuition. For example, our objects are very simple and black-and-white. It's what we like in an aesthetic sense. 

PE: It's quite difficult to describe. For us, one part is to create or to push ideas through the work.

BB: Another part is to communicate something in the most clear way. So we don't add any extra element and try to not add decorations. The concept is the core of it, and then to communicate that concept. So what we design is relying on intuition as a presentation.

What is the most beautiful time of day?

PE: The morning. I enjoy the morning light so much that I get almost stressed when the daylight sets in.

BB: For me it is evening, when I can sleep.

What is the most beautiful place you've visited?

BB: In the Alps between Milan and Zurich. If you take the train there in the spring, it's beautiful to see the contrast between the snowy mountains and the valleys.

PE: The north of Scandinavia, close to Kiruna (Sweden). It's very beautiful and very calm, no people.