Michel Ina, finding the essence
Where is the line between art and design?
It can be hard to determine in the context of Michel Ina’ s work.
The Nicaragua-born artist works out of Formworks Studio in Cleveland, creating objects for home interiors, such as chairs, door handles and sculptures that beg for interaction. He also shoots photographs that speak of the organic forms found in nature and the repeating patterns of the manmade world. And he designs entire rooms, too.
The common denominator? Ina likes to reduce an object to its essence.
“What is needed to complete the project and no more has guided my inquiries and compositions from the beginning,” says Ina, who is one of 15 artists with work represented at the PNC SmartHome at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
The question of sustainability — the main theme of the SmartHome — can be answered in different ways. Ina answers it with a careful choice of materials and by thinking about materialism in a larger sense.
“Design has to be about something,” he says. “Mass-production industries have been centered on one-offs and ‘unlike other’ designs to differentiate their products from their competition in the marketplace. This has led to a product environment of obsolesce and wastefulness. I believe that designers have had a role in this outcome and can be mindful of their designs’ impact on the environment.”
Also at the SmartHome is “AV d + d,” a tabletop object that engages the viewer by inviting interaction. A block of wood is drilled with six pairs of holes into which one can arrange of set of rods, like stainless steel Pickup Sticks, that splay out in different ways depending on which holes they’re placed in. The holes themselves are drilled at different depths and diameters, causing the rods to lean in different ways.
Like most of Ina’s work, the piece walks a line between simplified elegance and playfulness. The forms are sleek and basic. Only through the presence of the viewer do they come fully to life. And only through play does the user experience the piece as something that can be endlessly changed.
It is this interactivity, Ina says, that “helps to build a narrative that will reinforce the usefulness of the pieces and lengthen their utility and life cycle.”
These pieces can be viewed at the SmartHome through Oct. 9, when they will be sold in anticipation of the closing of the exhibit. The SmartSale will take place from noon to 4 p.m.
Michel Ina is a 2011 Creative Workforce Fellow.