Åbäke (GB)The first time Francesco Spampinato heard the word Åbäke dates back to 2002, associated with electronic music label Kitsuné, which is also a quintessential parisienne fashion brand. In fact Kitsuné is just one galaxy – collateral and not even representative – of the Åbäke universe, a London-based design studio behind which lurk Patrick Lacey, Benjamin Reichen, Kajsa Ståhl and Maki Suzuki. Active since 2000, the Royal College of Art alumni count clients like the British Council and the Serpentine Gallery, and collaborations with fashion designers such as Hussein Chalayan and Maison Martin Margiela, artists such as Ryan Gander, Johanna Billing and Martino Gamper, and bands such as Air and Daft Punk.
As the term Åbäke suggests, however, the Swedish word for a large and cumbersome object, Francesco suspects that the group supports the burden of design on commission only to learn rules and conventions that it is happy to deconstruct at other times. Åbäke, indeed, is also responsible for meta-design projects, independent, transdisciplinary, strictly collective and often participatory: the dialogical digital platform for architecture Sexymachinery (2000–2008), the relational culinary events of Trattoria (2003), the publishing project Dent-De-Leone (2009), the propaganda for the imaginary Victoria & Alferd Museum (2010), and the spy agency Åffice Suzuki (2010).
For Åbäke constantly attracts the attention of the art world: most of its projects do not certainly meet criteria of functionality, but raise questions about how design conveys the forms of transmission of culture. Publications, curatorship, talks and workshops, indeed, are integral part of their activities. So when Spampinato invites the group to be part of his book on art collectives, Åbäke agrees to contribute if Francesco writes in exchange this biography, inserting himself, “so it isn't authorless,” in third person, putting thereby in crisis the role of the critic and the conditions under which he normally associates intellectual values to cultural phenomena.