Whether designing Occupy Chairs from replicas of hand-scrawled signs created by anti-Wall Street protestors (these messages now “occupy” the households of several prominent members of the 1%) or devising the conceptual mural American Kills (installed outside his studio, it showcased original research demonstrating that the suicide rate of American soldiers doubled the number of U.S. Iraq war casualties in 2009), Errazuriz is nothing if not meticulous in finding ways in which to bring awareness to a heightened pitch of feeling. A logical-ecstatic state the artist likely learned via an exacting Jesuit education, this mood permeates the great majority of his work. Intense, argumentative and perfectionist in the extreme, Errazuriz’s creative stance constitutes an aesthetic and artistic militancy that promotes controversy (as opposed to conformism) as the sine qua non of the artist’s credo.
Which brings us to how Errazuriz came to turn his failings into blessings—like a regular little sinning St. Augustine—and adapted what might easily become a conflicted creative practice into artistic manner both incisive and unorthodox. Rather than bend to established norms, this successful multitasker simply went and redrew the frontiers between art and design himself. “Art is not supposed to have a functionality, and I think that’s wrong,” Errazuriz has said with the natural independence of a southpaw. “Design limited to merely functional pieces is also wrong,” he has additionally declared—“I need to work between the two.” An artist-designer who readily confesses to the crime of aesthetic and conceptual impurity, Errazuriz has shown that it is possible to strike a balance between art and design without significantly subordinating one discipline into the other.
“I used to tell people that design was my glamorous day job,” Errazuriz once told me before going on to say that he has no intention of ever giving it up for a career based exclusively on making art. “The truth is I need both passionately,” he added emphatically. An artist and designer whose interdisciplinary approach is as mongrel as it is idiosyncratic, his example points the way forward for messier, more experimental, increasingly contaminated creative practices. Today, Sebastián Errazuriz doesn’t just do art and design. He is, instead, both an artist AND a designer—with all the liberating implications that entails. Ultimately, being a bastard is no good unless it can be shouted from the hilltops. Just ask Evelyn Mulwray and Jake Gittes if it isn’t so.
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