Paper is one of the most typical materials. Literally attached to everything in our lives, the over-saturation of paper renders it essential but transitory to the point of becoming instantly worthless. (Even the paper that denotes economic function fluctuates at rates so high it is hard to fathom how value can be allotted through the material). Aside from currency, one could gesture towards increasingly expansive works of the literary canon to indicate value, but there the text holds meaning and not the material it is inscribed upon. Perhaps this loss of meaning in paper is a source of the inspiration to Zim & Zou, a duo of French designers who have chosen the material as central to their creations. Having studied graphic design for years, Zim & Zou sought to strike out from the digital realm and produce works that are more tangible. Paper is anything but flat to the duo who have moved the material in sculpture, diorama and origami.
Getting at the sense of an actual object, the physical sensation of the object, is the pursuit of the two. The “Back to Basics” series encompasses this sensation wholly. Paper constructed objects like a 35mm camera, a Gameboy consul, a Walkman, or a brick of a cellular phone all arrive at the sense of grasping the object in the hand like they are normally used. They are only paper though, and not in the usual presentation of the paper object reserved for printing or inscribing upon. Another facet of the “Back to Basics” series is the intensive amount of detail that was put into generating the imitated objects. They almost seem as exact replicas, except for the attribute of functioning as media devices, but then the duo twists the concept again in the choice of glowing neon colors, conversely removing the sculptures from actuality and placing them in a color-saturated fantasy. The series takes another depth, aside from the cutesy irony of technological waste. Actually moving toward a commentary on techo-narcissism as the by-product of media driven culture and the historical and tactile desire instilled in a generation as its technology becomes obsolete.
Zim & Zuo are continuously attempting to get at the very basis of matter through their works. Even though some much of their style is informed by pop trends or puerile sensationalism, a deeper curiosity of molecular activity is a theme that recurs. This is most obvious in the layout they produced for Le Monde to accompany an article regarding research of the Higgs Boson particle. The theme of molecular activity is again touched on in “Chef’s Mask.” Maybe not as directly as accurate diagrams of particle accelerations from the Large Hardon Collider, but with similar irradiating brilliance, the concept underlining “Chef’s Mask” touches on the same, though more simplistic, concepts such as quantum physics. The youthful duo, no matter the density of thought they place in their designs, is sure to offer an array of subject and sensation to grasp viewers.
-Howard Brad Halverson