Batten and Kamp
1. Where were you born and where are you from ?
Dan: Born in New Zealand and raised partly on an isolated farm in the mountains and partly in the city.
Ali: Christchurch, New Zealand, to two very creative parents, my mother is a interior designer and writer and my father is a gardener.
2. What is your first memory connected to the art world ?
Dan: Punk culture as a teenager.
Ali: My grandfather was a landscape painter as a side passion, although he was not a part of the art world, he used art to express the soul of the place which seemed like a magical idea as a child.
3. Have you always worked in the art/design field ?
Dan: Yes, other than working on my Dad’s farm as a teenager, I have only ever really worked for myself as a designer. After university my two best friends and I started a product and interior design practice in New Zealand called Think and Shift, which still exists now. After tiring of commercially driven design I drifted more toward design as a sculptural endeavour.
Ali: Yes, I studied and practiced Interior Architecture right up until we started Batten and Kamp. Art and design has been a core to our personal relationship, passions and conversations since Dan and I first met in university.
4. What led you to the design creation ?
5. How would you describe your creative process and it influences ?
Ali: As New Zealanders, the natural environment is part of our cultural and aesthetic DNA; in both the physicality and materials of the natural world but also the intangible forces and ideas within nature. We are realising more and more that so much of what inspires us comes from our homeland. In saying that, Hong Kong is very much our home too and we are hugely inspired by the industrial, natural and cultural qualities of this city.
For us, the beginning of an idea starts with exploring the city, long walks and a lot of conversations, it is one of the perks of working with your partner, there is so much more time. Particularly for Dan there is no end point to an idea, he likes to continue to develop and discuss something right until the last minute and in that sense, each piece can be seen as an evolution for the last and a prototype for the next.
6. Could you describe a typical day of your work ?
Ali: We live and work in the same space which is wonderful because it gives us more time at the start and end of the day. Almost every morning we get coffee and sit on the waterfront near our studio, before beginning work. Our days are varied, lots of conversations, lots of time in the workshop or re-arranging our studio which helps us to formulate ideas, and ideally no more than one client meeting a day. Of course there are the really busy days where we work in hyperfocus but generally we are trying to establish a pace and rhythm to our work which has longevity. We hope that we are lucky enough to do a version of this forever and if that is the case we can’t afford to build burnt-out into our day to day.
7. Why did you choose the specific materials you work with ?
Dan: I love the stillness of stone and the everyday beauty of industrial materials. These materials have been our particular focus for the last few years but we care exploring new directions within the same ethos.
8. What are the technical particularities of your creations ?
Ali: We approach the making of our pieces with as little intervention as possible. Either things aren’t fixed together or they are done so in a way that is honest; no tricky hidden details and all nuts and bolts on display and celebrated. Every part of the piece matters and the conventional hierarchies between materials are often challenged.
9. What advices could you give to beginning artists who would like to create sculptural design works ?
Ali: Work on yourself, explore your own ideas and your own interests. Take inspiration from all of the incredible talent in the world but don’t try to find success by emulating others. The most interesting work you will do will be a reflection of your own story. These are all the things I am constantly telling myself.
Dan: Design is so deliberate. One of the hardest things I have found working as an artist is unlearning that deliberacy and engaging more directly with my intuition. In other words, listen to Ali.
10. If your works had to belong to a design movement, in which one would you define it ?
Dan: Our training was more Euro-centric and our current context brings Asian influence to the work but ultimately our work is reflective of our New Zealand upbringing. If we were to attach it to a particular movement, perhaps it would be to the one currently happening in New Zealand, It feels like the country is really starting to find it’s contemporary aesthetic identity.
11. What designers have influenced you ?
Dan/ Ali: Noguchi, Formafantasma, Rick Owens, Axel Vervoordt, Andrea Branzi, Tadao Ando
12. What contemporary designers do you appreciate ?
Dan/ Ali: Wonmin Pak, Faye Toogood, Bijoy Jain
13. What contemporary artists (in any kind of art) have you been inspired by ?
Dan/ Ali: Lee Ufan, Nick Cave, James Turrell, Dane Mitchell
14. If you had to summarize your creations in one word or sentence, what would it be ?
Proust Questionnaire with very short answers (one or a few words) :
(The Proust Questionnaire is a set of questions answered by the French writer Marcel Proust. Other historical figures who have answered confession albums are Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Cézanne…)
1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Ali: Time and nature
2. What is your greatest fear?
Dan: Losing my sanity
Ali: Not reflecting who I believe I am
3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Ali: Irrational fear
4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Ali: Lack of critical thinking
5. Which living person do you most admire?
Dan: I don’t spend much time thinking about this so can’t answer
Ali: Both my parents
6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Dan: Being as picky as I am about the work I want to do
Ali: The fact that we don’t cook
7. What is your current state of mind?
Ali: Excited anticipation
8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
9. What is the quality you most like in a man?
Dan: Respectful masculinity
Ali: Gentle yet confident
10. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Ali: Self care
11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Dan: “should we get curry for dinner?”
Ali: “I haven’t quite thought this through, but…”
12. Which talent would you most like to have?
Dan: Money retention
Ali: To be able to paint
13. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Dan: Over thinking
14. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Dan: Having survived without following the normal path
Ali: Being someone that my younger self would be proud of.
15. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Dan: Black Kite (so I can hang out with Ali)
Ali: The wind
16. Where would you most like to live?
Dan: Where we are currently, in Hong Kong
Ali: In the mountains by a river…probably in New Zealand.
17. What is your most treasured possession?
Dan: My past sketchbooks
Ali: My Jewelry
18. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
19. What is your favorite occupation?
20. What is your most marked characteristic?
21. What do you most value in your friends?
22. Who are your favorite writers?
Dan: I only read non-fiction so no one in particular
Ali: Ocean Vuong, Haruki Murakami, my Mother
23. Who is your hero of fiction?
Dan: Porko Rosso
Ali: Cheng Xin
24. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Dan: I can’t think of a way to answer this question that isn’t arrogant
Ali: A generic, recluse farmer (however, my first thought was Genghis Khan but… you know)
25. Who are your heroes in real life?
Dan: My mother
Ali: My family, Dan
26. What are your favorite names?
Dan/Ali: We genuinely don’t have an answer for this.
27. What is it that you most dislike?
Dan: The idea that humans are apart from nature and inherently bad
Ali: Closed mindedness
28. What is your greatest regret?
Dan: Not learning an instrument
Ali: I tend to worry and not regret
29. How would you like to die?
Dan: I want my final act of design to be something that I feed my body to. I have thought about this for years.
Ali: In the mountains, by a river.
30. What is your motto?
Dan: Rice is life
Ali: Choose yourself first