Media Overview

FREITAG Ad Absurdum

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Lausanne, october 2015

Having been given carte blanche by mudac, Markus and Daniel Freitag have joined forces with conceptual artists Frank & Patrik Riklin, known for their offbeat practice outside of ordinary artistic circles. The four brothers share a mindset and similar fundamental principles underlie their work: actions centred on resources, the enjoyment of social interaction, and a cyclical way of thinking and acting.

Their project is not confined to the museum and largely takes place in public space. The Freitag and Riklin brothers set off in early summer to meet users of FREITAG bags, which are made from used truck tarpaulins. They invited them to take part in an action which pushes the manufacturing process for their products to the edge of absurdity: to give up their bags and let them return to being a lorry tarp. The four brothers took up banners and headed for locations including Zurich station and the cathedral square outside mudac, where they succeeded in convincing complete strangers to hand over their bags. All the FREITAG stores joined in with the campaign and asked customers to bring back their shabby totes. In this way, a hundred or so bags were garnered from around the world.

In the Zurich factory where every FREITAG bag is cut, the four brothers unpicked the bags they had gathered in, pieced and soldered them together. The lorry tarp was transformed... into a lorry tarp, pushing the FREITAG upcycling principle ad absurdum. The new multicoloured patchwork tarpaulin was mounted on a truck and the Freitag and Riklin brothers set off in August on a road trip around Switzerland, and engaged in dialogue with people in every region.

The four brothers were not afraid to invite themselves into strangers’ homes if it would get a conversation started,and they were confronted by reactions to their manifesto on consumption and production in the 21st century. They put their convictions to the test, and measured their ability to change reactions and attitudes. They counted it a success when they were able to sleep in a total stranger’s garden, spontaneously get people to make soup from the leftovers found on the various floors of an apartment building, or plant a placard questioning the fidelity of lawn-mowers...

These experiences and encounters gave birth to objects that are both surprising and original, made, in turn, from the re-re-recycled lorry tarp: these include a free-rider seat, a shopping bag prosthesis and even a compost catapult. In September, the four brothers went to test these objects on the people of Lausanne. Could unfamiliar objects shake up familiar habits? Could unexpected encounters create new consumer behaviours? This ironic take on recycling, extended to infinity, frees up the very serious position on consumption and our contemporary use of resources taken by the Freitag and Riklin brothers.

Every stage in this adventure will be retraced in the exhibition, which will enable visitors to join in and play an active part by borrowing objects which were themselves created as part of this extreme recycling project, with its stated aim of altering consumer behaviour.

Inviting Markus and Daniel Freitag to mudac was a way of pondering a striking success story of Swiss entrepreneurship in the design world. It is more than 20 years after their first fabric bag was created from recycled lorry tarpaulin, but public interest in their objects is as strong as ever. Their attachment to a unique production type, their consistency, rigour and quality products all appealed to us at mudac.

The Freitag brothers stand for precision and responsibility in their attitude, philosophy and work ethic. For them, consideration for individuals, employees and natural resources, and a transparent manufacturing process, are the keystones of an intelligent, respectful and efficient approach to design. An instantly recognisable design (even its smell is unique); constant questioning and desire to do better; attention to behaviour patterns and a critical eye on consumer society help to explain the success of a company in step with what matters to its clientele. And that is without mentioning their utterly original approach: creating a functional product from a dirty and used raw material.

Markus and Daniel Freitag were instantly intrigued by the challenge of applying these principles and ideas to the halls at mudac, with a need to take a step back and rethink recycling. In the interests of detachment and opening up the field of investigation, they joined forces with twins Frank and Patrik Riklin, conceptual artists known for their offbeat practice outside of ordinary artistic circles.

The four brothers’ started by questioning industrial production methods and the way we use resources, which were then staged and condensed. The result is an exhibition centred on giving the viewer an immersive but non-didactic experience. The Freitag and Riklin brothers are excellent communicators and hugely committed personally – they launched their project by setting out into the streets of Zurich and Lausanne to seek out passers-by and invite them to do something utterly unexpected: hand over their FREITAG bags! This was the first step on an adventure based more on a consumer’s gesture than a designer’s creativity, extending the principle of recycling ad absurdum. In keeping with the policy of openness that runs through their company, the various stages in designing and implementing the exhibition will be unveiled as it takes its course.

For mudac as a museum, this exhibition is also an opportunity to reflect on our own processes: how can we exhibit an attitude, a process, a reflection, rather than objects? How will the role of the visitor develop if we expect them to be active participants?

While this project poses a challenge to the viewer, it is also a gamble for the brothers and the museum. A bold gesture, a striking manifesto and an immersion into the Freitag brothers’ design practices: we at mudac are thrilled to present these elements to the public.

Please mention the Photo Credit: Peter Hauser