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Mike Meiré for Dornbracht

"The 'Energetic Recovery System' is a bridge to a new dimension"

Interview with Mike Meiré from Claudia Neumann

CN: For several years now, Dornbracht has been intensively engaged in the topic of "bathroom culture", frequently taking an experimental approach to the subject. This has taken the form of collaborative projects carried out either with de-signers or with artists. You yourself have served as curator for numerous artistic projects for Dornbracht and for many years have been the supporting agency for design, culture and communication. Following on from the "Abitare il Tempo" in Verona in 2002, you are now showing your installation E-R-S as part of Passages 2003. What is the basic idea behind your "Energetic Recovery System" (E-R-S)?

MM: I asked myself if one couldn't project the phenomenon of a car wash into a kind of ritualistic kinetics for a wash perfor-mance. Starting out from the concept that everything is material, I reflect on whether material couldn't be led back to a level at which energy is dispensed. What this involves is the fact that, alongside the external world, there always exists an internal world as well. Because these two sides always exist, there is need for a "re-balancing". For the person in the pipeline, this means he or she is given an opportunity to "re-design" him- or herself. This makes the pipeline or car wash into a vehicle taking its occupants into new dimensions of experience. It's about the kinds of resources we carry within ourselves. What's in there? What can we mobilise in order to reach new horizons? On the way there, we have need of bridges. Perhaps the pipeline is just such a bridge or a boat, a ferry carrying us across to the other banks. All in all, it speaks to the concept of "re-entry", and, logically, this begins with a kind of "re-start". All of this reflects the idea or philo-sophy of a transverse cultural epoch.

CN: How must one conceive of the E-R-S: is there a sort of monumental architecture at the "Abitare il Tempo" trade fair?

MM: The pipeline which I have developed consists of six phases. Two such phases were realised for "Abitare il Tempo". We decided to erect a model in the largest possible scale 1:6. The second and third phase were built in 1:1 scale, to convey a feel for the spatial dimensions involved. But in addition to this, the film entitled "up there" was developed as well. This film reflects the internal world of man. It simulates the feelings which a person would experience if given the opportunity to walk through the entire pipeline in 1:1 scale.

CN: Just what does a person experience when venturing into the "Energetic Recovery System", your pipeline?

MM: The pipeline is a communicative performance. It gives the person the opportunity to purify his or her consciousness by emptying it of its contents. Mind you, the question is how, in this world of complexity, energy can be restored if no provi-sion is made somewhere, at the same time, for the free space of mind which this requires. Because energy releases its creative potential only in empty spaces. The body of the person in the pipeline is defined as a receptacle which is purged there, evacuated. Here we have the link to nudity, an important topic in the bathroom. Man experiences a journey in which reality co-exists alongside virtuality. The two are no longer separable. Virtuality is nothing other than an as-if reality. For example, there is a strobe-like, flickering portal of light seeking to fade out people's cognitive, rational thought patt-erns so that they can experience the feeling of being "evacuated".

CN: The classic question: To your mind, what is the relationship between content and form?

MM: For me, the project possesses a certain form, a certain aesthetics which, in the final analysis, serve no other purpose than to channel a certain form of energy. What intrigues me is the collage, which is to say less the formal end result than the process - the way leading up to that point. In the case of the "Energetic Recovery System", this is very associative.

CN: Do the impulses for the pipeline tend to originate in the art world, do you seek your inspiration more in the develop-ments and personalities in the design area, or have you approached the subject matter from a different side altoge-ther?

MM: My references bear quite clearly upon the dimension of content. I have read closely the books of Jiddu Krishnamurti and then interpreted them from an aesthetic point of view. Also of great significance for me have been many years of discus-sions and deep conversations with Gerd Gerken. He can explain people's innermost drives and desires. Only based on clarity regarding these can a person make purposive use of the talents which he or she has been given. But particularly important for me is also Jean Piaget. One topic of special interest to me is traceable to him: my raw material is neither wood nor stone. My raw material is awareness for energy. I wanted to couple this energy with the human resource of mind and develop a form for this in which a person can release his or her own energy while receiving new energy at the same time.

CN: Originally, you hail from the world of communications. Do you view yourself here explicitly as a designer? And what, in your opinion, are the tasks of designers today? How do they view themselves?

MM: By definition, the designer is a shaper. This makes him or her someone who forms something. At the moment, we must shape new images of values, new values, and then we can go back to talking about form. For me, what matters is to stake a position. This includes questions such as: what is important in my life? Or, where do I sense that I am experien-cing a deficit? Just as Raymond Loewy realised, for example, in an industrial era, that products were durable but not beautiful. He identified man's need for a certain sensuousness, on the basis of which he developed his streamlined de-sign. Naturally, I aspire to a very progressive direction. Here, again, my reference to Jean Piaget applies: energy needs a direction, otherwise energy is lost. If people with energy fail to define a form for themselves, i.e. a form of behaviour, then they lose their energy.

CN: Against whom, on the other hand, would you want to dissociate yourself?

MM: Against those who believe that they are creating a new world order by erecting something hermetic - such as the archi-tect O. M. Ungers, for example. These kinds of approaches produce, first and foremost, cranial constructs which impede evolution. I respect their willpower, up to a point, but whosoever operates with the power of will only sacrifices his or her happiness.

CN: Don't these views come from the New Age area?

MM: No, with my approach I very clearly dissociate myself from New Age. New Age means the withdrawal from this society. I view myself as a mind designer. What my work involves is clarity and the holistic discernment of world. Everything is in a relationship with everything and everyone else. At the end of the day, it is about love, not about cheap, cliché emotions. That is also why a certain form of advertising no longer works. I would like to give matter a soul. That has nothing to do with New Age.

CN: Does the visitor to the pipeline understand this complex process? Aren't you concerned about accusations of manipulation?

MM: Naturally in many cases there are fears over crossing certain taboo barriers where spiritual things, religious things, the sphere of the soul is involved. My concern is, in fact, precisely the dissolution of conditioned consciousness. But would you be afraid of this? And if so, why are you afraid of it? It is fear of loss of control. If you go into the pipeline, you have to be quite clear that you are surrendering your control in order to come to new ways of seeing things.

Whoever goes into the pipeline finds resolution in the myth of purification. I am well aware that the accusation will come that this machine is an engine of manipulation, and that everything which actually constitutes a person is taken away, rendering the person incapable of action for loss of self-control. To that I must reply: the problem, the reason we find ourselves in constant conflict, is nothing other than this originary fear of loss of control. This originary fear must be re-placed with originary trust. We must develop an originary trust in that with which we are unfamiliar. Otherwise, change, innovation will be impossible to begin with.

CN: To what extent is the pipeline, the E-R-S, related to the topic of bathing and bathroom culture which is, after all, very important to Dornbracht?

MM: With the E-R-S, my concern was not to develop an aesthetic sketch for a futuristic bathroom. Rather, my concern was to illustrate that, in a bathroom, a person can experience certain rituals which hone the awareness. I wanted to convene my own experiences with a potential product level. I always try to create this linkage: ritual, culture and religion. Religions ma-nifest themselves in culture. Cultures arise out of the spirit of a religion. Every religion and every culture has its rituals. The bathroom could become a temple, it is one's own home temple. It follows from this, then, that the products involved should receive, in increasingly emphatic terms, the characteristics of fetishes.

In recent years, the kitchen has become the place of communication. But the bathroom has become the space for self-reflection. Bathing itself, after all, has a post-embryonic association, letting oneself drift. In the bathtub, water is the ele-ment which holds you aloft. There is something calming, solemn about it. For me, washing oneself has a ritual character. If one consciously experiences the bathing process, it is meditation. That, in my opinion, is what it is about: transforming the dogma of the post-modern age, the "becoming of continuity" into the "continuity of becoming". Rediscovering oneself in eternal passages, in the "flow of life".

CN: How does that fit in with the overall strategy of your client Dornbracht?

MM: It is important to make the transition from the notoriety of a brand to the significance of a brand. And the only way to do that is to set awareness-based processes in motion as well. Communication has become a product unto itself. What else is a company to do if all it does is to introduce a technologically new product to the market every two or three years? This is where communication plays an essential role, because it holds the company in an evolutionary state of oscillation.