Bokja’s work strikes with its maximalism. Is this act of defiance to the dominant modern trend in minimalism?
One of our first exhibitions was entitled “More is More”.
Our aesthetic direction was reactionary to our context, Beirut. Beirut is a city that echoes a complex language of layering and assemblage. Our layering process of textile, iconography, and form came from a necessity of material resourcefulness as well as an expression of our locality.
For us the motivation was more romantic, a belief that there’s potential for beauty in everything. We wanted to revive things that were forgotten so that no object would be discarded.
What about the choice of up-cycling?
Our fascination with the ‘used’ came naturally. We began our journey collecting textiles from different regions in the world, primarily Central Asia and MENA Region. Most of these collected pieces were older and in need of restoration and redefinition. This is when started using them as the upholstered skin of up-cycled furniture items and other objects. These textiles and found-forms became our medium of communication. For us the motivation was more romantic, a belief that there’s potential for beauty in everything. We wanted to revive things that were forgotten so that no object would be discarded. Sometimes we would be driving and find an abandoned object that we like; we would park, pick it up and work on it.
There’s poetry in textiles that were weathered by time and use. For our last exhibition, Shader, we exchanged sun-beaten truck covers for totally new textiles and used the former as primary material. The patina of time on a fabric does something to us, and that’s where we meet. We’ve actually created a market for these time-weathered fabrics and this drove their prices up.
Each piece of fabric comes with its own cultural history and our intention is to highlight that story by juxtaposing it with another piece.
You use fabrics from different cultures and mix them together. Why this choice?
Our signature is the assemblage of textiles coming from different regions, stitched together to communicate a particular message. Each piece of fabric comes with its own cultural history and our intention is to highlight that story by juxtaposing it with another piece. There is much beauty to be found in the art of contrast. We love the dialogue that happens between things that are not supposed to be next to each other; this is true for fabrics, for human beings, for anything really. One element lifts the other up and lends beauty to it.
Why are most of your objects pieces of furniture?
This is a common misconception. We consider ourselves surface fabricators which is more expansive than simply furniture. In the past, we have working on installation items, tapestries, and fashion. One work that we enjoyed thoroughly were a series of tapestries from 2011 that tell the story of the Arab Spring (and consequent fall), that predicted a lot of things about the unfolding of events, and are now part of the permanent collection of the Institut Du Monde Arabe.
It’s a pity that you don’t present this work here in the showroom. Isn’t it critical to your brand?
It is and we do exhibit these items when appropriate. As we move forward, we are exploring how to introduce these new items at a larger scale so they can read as an extension of what we are already known for.