Our Plupa Rocks!

“Plupa” – “The First Rijeka Bench”, is here and it has caused quite a stir. Young authors Jelena Azinović and Jaša Zelmanović have come up with an unconventional solution of using ship fenders as benches.

„It’s immediately clear that it’s funny and that it tells a story about people, ships and boats, and the sea. I’ve liked it very much because benches are to people what buoys are to boats and ships. They absorb the force of contact with the land. That to me is an elegant solution. A person is a ship; ask fishermen, yachtsmen, anyone who sails. They will agree. That does not mean, though, that I would like to be in their shoes, I would not, because it is not easy to achieve what they are expected to achieve. But then again, what is easy? The answer is: everything that’s boring“. This is one of the (rare positive) comments regarding the selection of the winners of The Rijeka Bench Competition that can be found on the website pogledaj.to.

People are ships, benches are ship fenders – this is really the ideal metaphorical description of The Plupa.

We have met with the authors Jelena and Jaša in unconventional surroundings near the nautical equipment store Nautika Store where we have also borrowed the props for the shooting – the fenders. We have put the authors in a situation where they could actually test the benches themselves, but we have also had a little chat with them about everything that has been going on over the last few days. Here’s what Jelena and Jaša have to say:

What were you expecting from the competition and were you hoping for the prize?

We found the competition appealing because of the possibility of working together on a project, the freedom the task allowed, and the desire to offer something different. Naturally, the financial factor also played a role. I assume that most of the participants, just like the two us, were hoping for the positive outcome.

Your project is very distinctive, has the idea of making the bench the city’s brand come to mind during its development?

The project is conspicuous, its “thing” is that it’s unexpected, and therefore, draws attention by default (positive or negative). We neither could nor wanted to avoid that. Though we have not thought of the solution as a brand for the city, time will tell whether or not it will become one.

*Jaša Zelmanović and Jelena Azinović

How was the concept created? Did it happen “in a jiffy”, or did it include a long working process; even though the solution suggests a swift response to the task?

This summer, we were in a situation where we had to spend a few hours at Molo Longo waiting for a catamaran to take us to Susak. Looking at the view from the Terminal we’d noticed that it was a rather monochromatic part of the city, whereas prior to this, we’d experienced Rijeka as a rather “lively” city. Aboard the catamaran we’d tried out the fenders that were on the deck, and we’d noticed they were comfortable and pretty resistant. It was here that the idea of using fenders for sitting and our project first came to mind. Although, actually, the concept for the solution of another project – 86B – came first; and the idea to offer the second solution came later; somehow one thing had led to another.

Plagiarism is by definition use or close imitation of someone else’s intellectual property without their consent, and your critics have accused you of it. Here’s your chance to address the issue.

Since the intention was to offer a solution in terms of a concept, and not in terms of a visual solution, we believed that the source of the photograph was not that important because, otherwise, we would have cited it (we did not designed the fenders; we used the ones that already existed and adapted them to the concept). The purpose of the competition was to come up not with a visual solution (poster, simulation or installation); but with a solution in terms of a concept. And, since we have not come across the concept of using fenders as an element of urban equipment elsewhere, we do not think we have plagiarized anything. There was simply no need for buying or designing a photograph, because this solution was perfect for what we wanted to present. The genesis of the elements of the photomontage seemed irrelevant in this situation, for both us and others.

A question from the audience; how have you dealt with the issue of someone aged 70+ who wants to sit on a bench like this one; or you think it is irrelevant in the context of the concept?

We have not dealt with it it, just as we have not, for instance, dealt with the issue of how a blind person should approach the bench. Not because we think it’s irrelevant, but because it wasn’t our intention to design an inclusive bench, and based on the competition’s guidelines and rules we assumed there was no need to do so. Our intention wasn’t to design the ideal bench, but to offer our vision of “The Rijeka’s Bench”, seeing as the competition’s potential participants included designers, artists, and architects. We are also being criticized because of the fact that the fenders are easy to damage. Yes, the elements of the bench are not “foolproof” (vandal-resistant), but they are easy to acquire, cheep, and replaceable, unlike some other materials.

What is your experience regarding similar things prior to this, have you already taken part in competitions such as this one?

Jelena: I have taken part in various competitions, exhibitions, projects, both as part of my studies and not; but I haven’t taken part in a project dealing with the bench before. By taking part in different projects, one gains different types of experience. Consequently, I find getting different reactions from different people normal and understandable.

Jaša: For a designer, competitions come with the territory. I had the opportunity to take part in a similar competition that had to do with designing benches, “Sit down Zagreb“, where I’d used the same approach in dealing with the task – simple and fun. The competition brought me neither success nor prize, but today I have the concept of bench thanks to it. You can take a look at my project here. Different competitions mean different kinds of experience, and in a way, every competition is unique.

For a task such as this, has the combination graphic designer + sculptor turned out to be the ideal match?

Sometimes, Jelena needs to “hit the brakes”, and Jaša needs to “step on it”; which makes this a great combination!

What’s the life like for a young graphic designer and a sculptress, nowadays?

The young graphic designer will live off the bench, and the young sculptress off the sculpture of the bench! 🙂

Jaša: At the moment, I’m working and earning  a living within my profession, and I’m not unhappy; I enjoy doing what I like. Half of my work time I dedicate to my “real job”, and the other half I play and happily take part in projects such as this one. After graduating from School of Design a few of my colleagues and myself have decided to get a joint working space, and so outside working hours I try to take part in different projects, both group and individual. I try to promptly publish a part of what I’ve created in my portfolio on www.jasa.zelmanovic.com where you can find more information about my work.

Jelena: Along with sculpture there is also restoration which allows me to spend the rest of my time on what fulfills me, and that it precisely sculpture. A few months ago, I’ve graduated from ALU in Zagreb, and I am currently preparing a few exhibitions, and also planning new works.

Your comments on the comments?

People have the right to an opinion (whatever it may be, if you ask us), and whether or not they are going to express it, and in what way, is their business. A constructive criticism is always welcome.

Are young creative minds demoralized by the negative reactions such as these, from mostly anonymous individuals, that are symptomatic of similar projects and fresh, different ideas?

Since the content of the competition is entirely public, there is room for comments, and consequently, a discussion. Which way it’ll go, is not up to us.

In fact, there’s an entire project dedicated to this issue in the form of a Ostvari.to (Realize.it) planner and it deals with the issue of public discussion, criticism, and motivation of young authors.

Misocainea is something that does not surprise us, and consequently, we are not too affected by it.

Surely, you have seen all the other entries as well, do you have any favorites, and were you surprised by some of the other, different, approaches to the task?

There are a lot of entries, and various areas have been covered. From we have noticed, there is a myriad of different solutions and approaches. It’s nice to see all the entries in one place. A lot of authors can be proud of their solutions, because the benches don’t disappear; they remain forever as concepts, and who knows, maybe someday they’ll get to achieve their realization within some other context. And of course we have a favorite, but shhh; it’s a secret.

So, before the election silence begins; who is Jelena and Jaša’s favorite in the runner-up election?

We have cast our votes, but we choose to maintain our silence. 🙂

In case you still have haven’t done it, for more on Plupa click here.

Petra Tomljanović and Ivan Dorotić have interviewed Jelena and Jaša

photographs: Ivan Dorotić

thanks to Nautika Store – Trgovina nautičke opreme – Zagreb