The Latvian exposition Matter to Matter is like a short introduction to Latvia`s relationship with its natural environment. Read how this approach won the grand prize of the London Design biennale and how MADARA Cosmetics took part.

Close your eyes, inhale the green freshness. Listen. Touch and feel the fresh, cold glass. Let your emotions and instincts off the leash and draw the first thing that comes up in your mind. Let your mind wander in a lush green forest or a saturated meadow after the rain on a chilly autumn morning. Creating this teleport effect in one of the most crowded metropolises of the world, the main design and art event in London, seems an impossible task, but that is what Latvian designer Artūrs Analts managed to do with his installation Matter to Matter which just won the grand prize of the London Design biennale 2018.

Matter to Matter is a joy to all the senses – the nose included. How MADARA Cosmetics took part in this installation, what Analts` key to success was and why Latvian design is becoming even more significant in London – read the thoughts by MADARA Cosmetics co-founder and designer Liene Drāzniece.

Let your emotions and memories off the leash


The ambient scent for Matter to Matter was developed in collaboration with MADARA Cosmetics. The design team gave us the task of creating ‘the scent of Latvia’ so our perfumers had to understand how Latvia smells from Analts` point of view – or nose to be correct, and interpret it as an aroma. While working with various forest and meadow note combinations, they had to evaluate the right season of choice – whether it was a lush forest filled with the sun`s rays during summer or a tepid, foggy forest during autumn. The final answer was found in the presentation brochure of the installation – a photograph of the River Gauja during late autumn, with a green and mysterious pine forest, dark, cold river and decaying leaves with a light frosting of the first snow. As a result, the fragrance turned out to be very aromatic and terpenic, reminding one of wet pine bark and soaked grass. You can also get some soil and wood notes.

Whispering to out-scream the chaos

“London is not the most typical destination to search for inspiration. The city never sleeps and there is always something going on, but the chaos and intensity is so high that you feel like you need to scream to get your message noticed for even a second. Only when you reach a secluded circle of interests, you understand the rules on how to get the attention you`re looking for.

When we went to see the exhibition, we realised that contemporary art, design and everything going on has reached the line of complete conceptualism. Of course, the concepts are very powerful but they don`t reach the observer. It feels like you have to be an expert and related to the field to go deeper and to understand. This approach means that artists can`t relate to a simple observer`s lifestyle and way of thinking. Even we, who are related to the field, could not understand the message and concept without reading the descriptions. For the design to reach the people it has to focus on the user. The design has to solve problems and integrate into everyday lives of people, but in London it seemed cold and distanced. But the truth is that everyone could get the message if the design communicated and spoke in a simple language. When we walked through the biennial, it was clear that Analts` installation would get the gold medal as it automatically fitted this setting – it was high quality, very direct, open, and very simple. And there was no other work similar to it, and this greatly surprised us.

Artūrs Analts, the author of Matter to Matter and Liene Drāzniece

Outstanding design examples

The success of Matter to Matter lies in its ability to make everyone feel amazing. It is like an experiment where you can feel free, do and draw what you desire so you don’t even want to leave. It is a sensory experience that you can feel in multiple ways. The room is warm so you don’t even expect the glass to be so nicely cool and fresh when you touch it. You hear the thunder rumbling, birds singing. You smell the lush green aroma. The exposition works with all of your senses and this is the key to its success.

Photo by Ed Reeve.

Another exposition that is worth pointing out is a microbiology experiment Body Of Us, done by Switzerland. It’s a big glass Petri dish that is filled with microbes from the room and people who have been in there. The installation studies the interaction of our bodies and space, investigates the traces of microbes we leave behind and questions a new kind of social relationship. The installation continues to evolve and you can see its current state on its webpage.

Also, China stood out with a memory project about Nanjing Yangtze River bridge. It considers the emotional significance of an iconic structure and how it became a part of the nation’s collective memory. Being a strong symbol, it is now seen in countless photos and souvenirs and has become a place of secret dates and many suicides.

1) Body of Us, Switzerland. 2) The Memory Project of Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, China.

Latvia in design

That very same evening our predictions turned out to be right – Analts’ work really won the gold medal. We were stoked about the news and the euphoric feeling even continued the day after. We went to a fashion concept store Concept Store Y, which is filled with independent fashion labels such as Maison Margiela, Jil Sander, Dries Van Noten and many others. The interior of the building is impressive as well as the old architecture is combined with very innovative and modern touches. I already knew that the Latvian designer Germans Ermičs had worked with the fashion brand Raf Simons, but I was surprised to see the installation with his coloured glass at this concept store. Later we went to The Monocle Cafe, a paradise of independent and niche magazines. While leafing through Printed Pages magazine, we by chance saw the illustrations of Roberts Rūrāns, a Latvian artist. His illustrations will be on the very special MÁDARA Cosmetics Christmas collection set that is coming out very soon. This made us super happy as well. Then we saw the Latvian bookazine Benji Knewman listed as a favourite of The Monocle Cafe, and Analts’ work Matter to Matter was published in the first pages of The New York Times. It gave us an euphoric feeling – wherever we go, Latvian design always finds us, and this was truly amazing.”

Video: Matter to Matter at London Design biennale 2018.