13.05.05 09:50 Age: 11 yrs

Swiss art firm Protoplast

Category: press monitoring

By: Rose Marie Barrientos

First issue of ICONOMIX

Swiss art firm Protoplast develops imaginary products at the crossroads of art and industry.

Protoplast is an “action firm” and a group of artists working in Basel, Switzerland.

Its members may be recognized by the blue briefcase they always carry with them; perhaps that’s where they keep the trade secrets of their invention, the imaginary product. The imaginary product comes in various shapes and formats. It concentrates form and content while allowing multiple uses and interpretations. In general, an imaginary product is a project, an object and an action associated to the firm’s brand and identified by an article number and a registered trademark. For the launching of imaginary products into the (art) market, Protoplast elaborates its own marketing strategies, incorporating the advertising campaign and related events into the artistic process. Since the firm’s inception in 1990, over twenty such products have been developed and presented in several art and design sites throughout Switzerland and Germany, attracting the interest of the artistic and the business spheres alike.

Based on the premise that what “makes” a product is our knowledge and experience of the object behind it, and that product quality may be optimized by imagination, the group develops imaginary substitutes for all types of goods available in today’s markets. To create an imaginary product, Protoplast focuses on revealing and releasing the energetic potential of common market products. The object is reformulated and its functions improved, yielding a product of the highest quality. The advertising material associated to the imaginary product informs us of its potential and the brand it carries is proof of its affiliation to a creative system where the only limits are fixed by the consumer/spectator’s imagination. The result, which by the way the firm refuses to call “art”, is an object with new aesthetic and market values at no additional cost, as imagination is in essence free. This seems a definite advantage for both the business and the artistic enterprise.

The dynamic art firm has proved to be open to different ventures and has successfully explored several markets over the years. In the mass market product area, for instance, Protoplast’s intervention transformed the ordinary pocket lamp into an artefact to boost consumer vision (energizer®) and the remote control into a fantasy unit (universel®). Other fields explored by the firm include the stock exchange (index®, an “investment certificate with a high emotional quality”) or the pornography market (pom-O-porn®), where the product is actually the publicity for a highly erotic combination of fruit, fingers and suggestive words. Audacious as it may be, however, the art firm has also proved its social responsibility, a key issue in today’s corporate world. The proceeds from the sale of the product light®, a “light” version of the shopping bag, were donated to a local community non-profit association.

Protoplast operates as a business company but the group undeniably dwells in the artistic domain. Through the use of business devices, Protoplasticiens update the language of art, and, through the manufacture of market products within the art circuit and according to its modes, the firm offers an innovative approach to merchandise conception and promotion. In a world of permanently shifting values, Protoplast seems to have entered into a new dimension where art and merchandise meet and enhance each other. The imaginary product appears thus to be the suitable choice to meet the exigencies of the future.