Interviewed in Zagreb on 27 August 2016
Numen / For Use gathered in late 1990s as an informal platform uniting a group of graphic and product designers with a goal of knowledge integration and the development of cooperation. From the mid 2000s Numen / For Use stands for a Croatian-Austrian trio including Sven Jonke, Christoph Katzler and Nikola Radeljković that also gathers a net of contributors and co-authors. Numen / For Use has from its very beginning affirmed its position on the international scene with projects for the world’s most prestigious furniture producers. However, their interests have expanded in the meantime and now include scenography and spatial installations. Keeping in mind the diversity of their activities, it is not easy to summarize Numen / For Use’s work. However, in all of their projects they focus on precision and attempt to master the technical and cultural parameters.
ORIS — In the period from the end of the 1990s to their first retrospective exhibition held in 2003, Numen / For Use functioned as a collective engaged in graphic and product design. In a way, the model of work was a rudiment of what is now called a co-working space, greatly due to the intensity of togetherness, which I have shared as well. It was the period when we worked and learned at the same time – from pragmatic, technical information to cultural references we never got to know during our education; the American minimalism of Donald Judd or Sol LeWitt, or Anton Stankovski and others in graphic design. There may have been less unknown facts in product design, but these general references were very interesting and I think that this exchange of knowledge helped us all.
Sven Jonke — Yes, music too. We started to listen to jazz music; it was a big step. Before that we listened to electronic music, it was also a research… It was not easy to get this music, we did not download it from the Internet, as today.
Nikola Radeljković — The Croatian Design Exhibition 01, held in the Forum Gallery and organized by the Croatian Designers Society was our first joint project; we worked with graphic designers Toni Uroda and Jelenko Hercog. Other exhibition projects followed, like the 34th Zagreb Salon, the xo-Retrospective of Bruketa&Žinić om, both hosted at the Home of the hdlu (Croatian Association of Artists), and later we did some more commercial realizations, trade exhibition stands like the Module project done for the Exportdrvo company, etc., the whole Stereo Series. The important aspect of this formative phase and the self-education it included was the act of learning about our modernist heritage, which was erased in the national awareness period of the 1990s. The socialist contribution to visual arts was not studied enough and we got to know it during the work on our projects. The Art of the 1950s exhibition, which was curated by Zvonko Maković at the Home of hdlu, was important to me because we were really confronted with our modernist heritage. The cooperation with Zoran Kodrnja, who was involved in most of our projects – architects knew him for his excellent models, was crucial, in terms of the work on our projects, but also in terms of shaping our worldviews. His experience, his intuitive knowledge of all the materials and his wish to share his expertise, were precious to us.
Sven Jonke — There was not much space for an industrial designer in Croatia at the time, so our collaboration was a kind of a struggle for realization; we used to find clients ourselves. We often approached our tasks more ambitiously than we had to; each new project was a new research.