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Resistance in Design | Interview with Nissa Kinzhalina

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Kazakhstan-based designer Nissa Kinzhalina studied architectural design at university, but it was not a smooth ride. At just 18 years old, she was expelled after the first year, as she did not have the funds for the course. After two years of work, she returned to her studies. Nissa explains that this break made her a better student, leading to her receiving a scholarship.

Her design career took off after she took part in the SaloneSatellite Worldwide Moscow competition in 2014, where she created her first product – the Urban Philosophy Chair. MiND had the opportunity to speak to Nissa about her design philosophy and experience.

What is the design process like for creating one of your pieces?

At first, I think. I live through this object in my head. I think a lot, ask questions, try to understand what I want to achieve. It can take me from five minutes to five weeks or even months. Meanwhile, I can draw something, but it will not look like a finished sketch. After everything clicks in my head, I start doing 3D visualization. Material and production technology come after. But I mainly love working with metal.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Many people think that inspiration is a one-time thing, like a flash that came from nowhere and went nowhere. This is absolutely not true. My inspiration does not “come” to me and does not “leave” me – it is always with me. I feel it every day in everything I see, everything I hear. In Russian, this word comes from the word “breath”. So this is something that allows you to breathe, therefore you can live. It can be anything, from the smell of a pillow in the early morning to the Bela Tarr movies. The question is: do you cultivate the ability to see all of this and let it flow through you?

Gravity Table and Gentle Hint Chairs

What has been your most challenging project?

At the start of this year, I participated in an interior design contest where we were given an existing house with all the plans, drawings and three potential customers to choose from. I chose the most difficult customer, where a young family expects twins, but the sex is unknown. The difficulty lies in the fact that when such important facts are unknown, it is necessary to create conditions where everyone would be comfortable despite the circumstances. Thus, the decision on the opening sash involves the development of several scenarios. As a result, we get a constantly changing, transforming layout, depending on the needs of family members. I also studied the behavior pattern of mothers and children. It turned out to be quite a thoughtful project, and I won a prize that covered the expenses of my exhibition in Hong Kong.

Which one of your creations do you most identify with?

My work is built on complex significant meanings. I don’t try to characterize it myself – I recall all the characteristics that I have been given for the last few years, and what they continue to write on Instagram and Behance. Two words that I really like are resistance and strain. I love them because they are about how I grew up – I had a rather difficult life, including my childhood. I have always been left to myself, and I self-reflected a lot. Now, looking at my furniture, I see pain in it – the one I was able to survive once. My furniture is not feminine – I would even say that it is sexless. Rather, it is very rough and massive, but at the same time elegant. Its basis is resistance and opposition, the constant overcoming of something. Even in the “RIPPLE EFFECT” table, it is visible – it’s built on tension. My works are in the position of protection, alertness.

Stubby Chair

Do you think design can send a message to people?

Once, someone wrote that one of the “RIPPLE EFFECT” tables reminded him of a man and a woman who are trying to reach out to each other. They are eager to be together, but some unknown force pulls them back. From time to time, I give lectures in which I tell the story of the creation of all my concepts and share the ways of developing a thought with people. All of my furniture is built on the interaction of forms with each other. But the meaning of this form depends on who is looking at it, thus, there can be a multitude of meanings. With my work, I can play a game of sorts, where a person can see the story that they relate to. But with my works, I first of all want to convey my story – about overcoming and resistance, about the development of many variations of our reality.

Can you tell us more about your most recent exhibition in Hong Kong?

I received an invitation from them twice. I refused the first one, but the second time I decided to take a chance and did not regret it. Design Pier Gallery did their best and my table was sold half an hour after the exhibition opened.

Ripple Effect Table

“Through design, we show people how to think and perceive life differently.”

What advice do you have for young and aspiring designers?

Do not limit yourself to your resources. Now is the time of globalization, when everyone is equally available in different parts of the planet. Think as hard as you can. Filter all the content that enters your brain. Have complex conversations, watch complex movies, listen to complex music. Accelerate your thinking.

Any exciting future projects in mind?

Right now, I have two projects that use engineering technologies, including solar energy and kinetic force. I love physics, and when science and design merge – it turns into something incredible.

MiND wishes Nissa the best in all of her future projects and can’t wait to discover her new designs.

By: Akanksha Salunke & Isabelle James