This is a text that was first published in the catalogue which we wrote for the Totem and Taboo exhibition at the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna, in 2011:


„Before considering Kai Linke's contribution to Totem and Taboo, it's worth contemplating the seat of ideas on which it rests.Firstly, as Martino Camper has confirmed elsewhere in this book, it is hard to find anyone in the design industry who will deny that, when it comes to furniture, a chair is the most challenging and interesting thing to design: the object that stands closest to the human body.

Secondly, art and design may well relate to each other as high and low culture in the eyes of many, but each has in turn its own subdivisions, schisms and unwritten laws that means loads of objects, often the best selling and most popular, have been denied the right to celebrate themselves as design. IKEA is but one of the most conspicuous examples of this apartheid-politics. Another one is the monobloc.


"art and design may well relate to each other as high and low culture in the eyes of many"

"IKEA is but one of the most conspicuous examples of apartheid-politics"




Its looks may be as cheap as the price it is sold for, but even its harshest critics have to admit that at three euros a piece, or less, this makes the monobloc plastic chair (almost) available to anyone – a purpose that has been at the root of design for almost two centuries, yet has always remained utopian.

All this has turned the monobloc into one of the ultimate challenges, not only for contemporary designers who set themselves the task of adding another chair to the countless ones that already exist, but also for artists who rather play on its symbolism and paradigm power. Somehow, and on different grounds, it has become a norm and landmark by which anyone creative has to straighten themself out, a totem, and the father figure to kill – before moving on. Many of the most successful chairs of the last decade, designed by Ross Lovegrove, Jassper Morrison, Philippe Starck, and as featured in this exhibition Jerszy Seymour, started and/or ended up as a variant, comment and attack on the monobloc.

"Kai Linke describes his work as a mixture between art and design playfully oriented on nature"

he lives and works in Frankfurt am Main

Gathering in a corner of the exhibition, or protruding from a wall, are six other versions. They are the work of Kai Linke, who not only declares to be hovering between design and art, but also to be addicted to the monobloc.

In Mirror Chairs, created in 2009, the different characteristics of Linke's creations merge into a work in which the camera -more than the designer- has taken the lead role. Following the principle of an all too familiar Fun House idea and children's game, Linke took pictures of monbloc chairs, cut these pictures lengthwise in half, doubled one of the halves again, and ended up with a perfectly symmetrical image. After translating these images into 3-D objects, and taking images of the objects, the results are not only a series of chairs that are pretty deranged and deformed, but looking at the pictures one also doubts: is this real or Photoshop?

max borka frank akino


„Due to the fact that some of the chairs are hard or nearly impossible to use as normal seating objects it allows many thoughts in between, „ says Linke, „Moreover, each one has its own very special identity which sometimes even appears poetic, like the two chairs that seem to embrace themselves.“

What the installation proves for certain is that the golden rule of symmetry does not always work, and that the ubiquitous can enter the realm of the unique and precious.

(KAI LINKE (born 1980 in Offenbach) lives and works in Frankfurt am Main. He studied architecture at the University of technology in Darmstadt and then enrolled at the Academy of Art and Design in Offenbach, studying in the Department of Industrial Design. After working as a freelancer for some time, he set up his own design studio in Frankfurt. The work of Kai Linke is based on the philosophy that design can be conceptual, environmentally friendly, and functional at the same time. He believes that designing objects is like using a language to explain thoughts and feelings. His work, which he describes as a mixture between art and design playfully oriented on nature, has been seen at numerous national and international exhibitions and fairs since 2005) (mb)

First published in. Max Borka ed, Totem and Taboo, Complexity and Relationships between Art and Design, a catalogue to an exhibition Museumsquartier Vienna. curated by Elena Agudio, Bessaam El-Asmar, Tido von Oppeln, and Alexandra Waldburg-Wolfegg. 2011. Texts by Elena Agudio, Max Borka, Nicola von Albrecht, Max Borka, Tido von Oppeln.