Tejo Remy:
An Interview


by Deanna Sirlin

Tejo Remy, You Can't Lay Down Your Memories, 1991.

Collection: Museum of Modern Art NYC.

Tejo Remy is an interior and product designer in Utrecht, Holland, who has been commissioned by the High Museum in Atlanta to create one of his signature chests of drawers to join its permanent decorative arts collection. Deanna Sirlin, The Art Section's Editor-in-Chief, interviewed Remy concerning his work and this new commission.

Deanna Sirlin: You made your first chest of drawers, You Can't Lay Down Your Memories, in 1991. Will the fact that the work commissioned by the High Museum is to be made in the American South, where memory and the past are important parts of the culture, will change the work in any way? How is each work different or the same for you?

Tejo Remy: Use and memory are basic to the chest—you remember where you put the things you store in the chest by the different drawers. The change will come in part from using drawers with a local story, the “genius loci” of the drawer. This is also what makes each chest the same: each is an assembly of different drawers with different stories.

DS: You have spoken about recollecting your memories in the drawers. Do you think Americans and Europeans differ in their attitudes towards design? Are one country’s ideas about design more influenced by nostalgia and the past than another’s?

TR: I think this is more a personal issue, like art being in the eye of the beholder. Even being local is a globalization. I do not see my design as nostalgic but more as an expression of the idea of creating your own paradise using what is available.

DS: There is an element of humor in your work. Can there be such a thing as comic design, and how does this come about into your work? Are there any other designers or artists that deal with humor that you appreciate? Does irony have a place within your sensibility?

TR: The humor in my work is more to relativize. Marti Guiex, Maarten Baas--these are designers whose work take a limit with design just by setting things in a different context, and sometimes it has humour. It is not only irony but also providing an alternative and a change of mentality about design.

DS: What was the first time you thought to use recycled materials in your design work?

TR: To reclaim materials is also to tell a story of their use and to give things a different setting and transform their meanings.

DS: What kind of story do you think your work tells? I think you have talked about Robinson Crusoe. Please explain how his story connects to you and your design.

TR: The parallel with Robinson Crusoe is in the idea of creating your own paradise with what is available, the way Robinson had to reinvent his surroundings with what he found.

DS: How important is craft and what does craft mean to you in relation to your work?

TR: Craft is a way of making, and to make this in small production with a local craftsman. 

DS: Is there a difference between design and art now? Are these labels useful in any way?

TR: Labels are only good for giving things a place, which is also dangerous. Design is applied art, and art is design without a function.

DS: Does taste have any relationship to your ideas about quality in design?

TR: I always try to work beyond taste. The method of making and the material will make the decoration.

DS: Would you mass-produce your work for American Big Box stores (such as Wal Mart) like other designers have recently agreed to do? Do you believe in “design for all“?

TR: The things we design are not very suitable for mass production. This does not mean that I would like to do this. Design for all is a myth; there will be always a taste issue. You cannot please everybody—why would you want to?

For more information on Tejo Remy, please visit www.remyveenhuizen.nl

Deanna Sirlin is Editor-in-Chief of The Art Section and an artist whose work can be seen at www.deannasirlin.com