You are both very involved in the community of Eindhoven and the Design community. How did this start?
Margriet: It started together with Josine Beugels and her idea for the 70% Bar.
Lucas: Exactly. Josine came with the idea to make a ‘70% Bar’ because she likes small things. I thought it was a good idea to make things smaller and do less for Dutch Design Week. It was a cool collaboration from the start between someone who finds the project cute and someone with a conceptual perspective.
Margriet: Josine and I always liked to organise small restaurants. The studio was quite expensive to rent, so we thought: ‘if we organise a restaurant for the neighbourhood here once, or twice a week, we can earn the rent back’. Consequently, we were mainly busy moving tables back and forth. We did earn back the rent, but we couldn’t do much else in the studio. Eventually, we decided that we didn’t want to do that anymore and organised a new restaurant the next year.
Lucas: I teach at the Fontys Art Academy in Tilburg, together with Woody Venema, and we made six editions of the Fontys Factory during Dutch Design Week. Together with the students and some invited designers we organised critical exhibitions on themes like cancer or metal recycling. It is a small faculty with a small budget, so I did not get many hours to teach. I thought of a way to create my own work together with students, so I could put more of my own hours in it. That way, I could earn money from it by other means, and the students could go through the entire design process. This is how the ‘Fat Pony’ project got started, as a new educational system in which you collaborate with students. Students could experience setting up a design project in the real world. That was pretty cool and we applied this system again for WALL STREET. The ‘Fat Pony’ was a research into horsemeat and health, whereas WALL STREET was about economical value. The initial question was whether we could create money instead of things.
And could you?
Lucas: Well, yes and no. We started this project because people always mention that, as a designer, we have to charge at least one hundred euros an hour or else you’re not being realistic.
Who would pay that?
Lucas: Exactly. That is why we wanted to create money instead of things. We started with a restaurant where all the food is free, but that was a bad idea.
Margriet: We didn’t make a lot of money, but it appeared that we were not being in Spain during October in the Netherlands. People didn’t understand the free food. Some customers only wanted more, and others didn’t trust the food.
Lucas: We kept on experimenting with alternative value systems.
What has WALL STREET given you?
Lucas: In my own practice I’ve always made critical projects. The cool thing of WALL STREET was the social aspect it had; I could work with people from outside of my 'bubble'. I found that really inspiring. Working with refugees, expats and students made me feel part of the world and less stuck in my own bubble.
We also tried to get politics involved. As a designer you shape society with the objects you create. I thought: ‘Can we design politics? Can you sit at the bar with a councilman and talk about society, like you would do with your friends?’. Politics can better be done at the bar than in city Hall. In the beginning it worked out pretty well.
How do you define design?
Lucas: Solving problems, right? Margriet is actually an artist and I have been trying to become one for a very long time now.
Margriet: The difference is very blurry. In the foundation our conceptual thinking is similar, but our materialisation is not. I don’t know if that is because of the difference of our disciplines or our characters.
So why did you have the ambition to be an artist?
Lucas: I just consider myself an artist instead of a designer. I’m born in the wrong occupation. I’m a trans-professional.
What attracts you so much to collaborations? This also deals with this question. The search of what I am? What is the limitation of my discipline and how can I go beyond these borders?
Margriet: The dialogue is interesting. By 'ping ponging' back and forth with someone you end up with a thought that you couldn’t think of by yourself. Ideas accelerate. Together you can achieve more, maybe that is because of the social pressure of someone else’s expectations. I notice that working with other people takes me out of my comfort zone; It broadens my horizon.
Lucas: The WALL STREET project made me very enthusiastic about doing social projects. I would love to do another one with more different kinds of people. We don't live long enough to be stuck in your own bubble all the time.
How do you document your social design experiments?
Lucas: Well, we did that very poorly and that is a shame. We did all these interesting things, but because of the busy days we didn’t photograph anything. We should have.
Margriet: We should have gotten a photographer that documented everything while we did our thing.
Lucas: Now we're going down without any images as proof. Ten years from now, everyone will think: ‘WALL STREET, that was so cool!'
The full interview with Lucas Maassen and Margiet Craens can be found in the second edition of BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE. You can follow BLANK SPACE MAGAZINE here.
Interview: Anne Ligtenberg and Mats Horbach / Photography: Manon Vosters / Text editor: Mats Horbach