design in dialogue: INTERVIEW with tom dixon
on april 1, 2020, new york gallery friedman thing initiated a online interview series aimed at connecting individuals around the world with leading voices in the creative field. dialogue design is a conversational program hosted alternately by a curator and a historian Glenn Adamson and designer stephen burk who engages with designers, creators, critics and curators as they reflect on their careers and creative processes. on the bottom of COVID-19[female[feminine and global lockdowns, conversations take place virtually on zoom for 1 hour so anyone in the world can tune in, and include a hands-on Q&A with the audience in attendance. friedman thing has since featured more than 90 episodes, each offering unparalleled insight into the sensibilities, thoughts and memories of today’s creative protagonists. see our recent article by ebitenyefa baralaye on “the coded nature of faces” and dorte mandrup on the conception of “irreplaceable places”.
dialogue design returns with a brand new conversation between Glenn Adamson and british designer tom dixon. the interview, which also includes contributions from guest curator gareth williams, tracks Dixonhis debut as enfant terrible of the British scene, its transition from music to design, the characters and the settings of 1980s London, and its leading role in creative rescue movement. early in his career, the self-taught designer pioneered a style of improvisatory diy, often incorporating industrial waste and vintage scrap. “I think the punk movement definitely freed a whole generation of people from feeling that they had to a. conform, or b. even be formally good at producing,’ Dixon notes during the conversation. ‘the most important thing became attitude and uniqueness and not a polite outcome. it was quite unique in London at the time, and the key was certainly unlocked by a series of non-musicians who became the punk bands. in 1976, sex guns were number one and they really did make the most terrible noise, so that must have taught us how to behave. I don’t think I would have understood that if I hadn’t been in music myself before, where it’s pretty normal and for a long time that you learn your own instrument, compose your own songs, book your own concerts and make your own flyers. that’s pretty much what we did in furniture, we created our own exhibitions, we invented them as we went along and the most important thing was to have a recognizable attitude and manifesto rather than a series manufacturing know-how or very neat craftsmanship.
watch the full video interview at the top of the page and learn more about tom dixon’s early work, featured in friedman benda’s latest exhibition below.
tom dixon, space age chair, 1987-1988, welded steel | courtesy of friedman benda and tom dixon
all photos by daniel kukla unless otherwise noted
“Accidents Will Happen: Creative Recovery, 1981-1991” at
a series of works by tom dixon is currently playing as part of friedman thingthe eighth annual exhibition organized by guests, ‘Accidents Will Happen: Creative Rescue, 1981–1991’. at the sight of from January 13 to February 12, 2022, the exhibition is organized by gareth williams, who co-wrote “cut and close: the story of creative recovery” with Nick Wright. the exhibition, which marks the first international presentation dedicated to creative salvage furniture, showcases key works from an often overlooked but highly influential period of British design that boomed from the 1980s in London. old and important pieces from key figures of the period are featured, including ron arad, brand brazier jones, tom dixon, andré dubreuil, danny lane, jon mills and deborah thomas.
‘Accidents Will Happen: Creative Rescue, 1981–1991’ captures a critical moment in recent design history and traces its exciting story through a multitude of contemporary archival documents. against the backdrop of a country under duress, this group of enterprising and anarchic creatives forged ahead making furniture using the most rudimentary materials and equipment. salvaged steel rods were rearticulated in Rococo-inspired forms, rusty scaffold clamps and dumbbells has become the structural support of the chairs, a reclaimed marble facade and parquet bricks were reused as table tops and chandeliers were formed from broken glass bottles.
as noted in dixon’s quote above, music was central – from playing in bands to holding infamous illegal warehouse/exhibition party hybrids – and liberated their understanding of the design process, leaving a tangible legacy for later studio production.
tom dixon, executive chairman, 1984, welded steel reinforcing rods for concrete and rubber inner tubes
courtesy of friedman benda and tom dixon
tom dixon, skeleton chair, 1985, steel welded concrete reinforcement rods | courtesy of friedman benda and tom dixon