Interview: Tobias Wong & Ken Courtney
by / December 1, 2005

Here's the telegraphic story behind the interview; we cover the launch of a cool new store/gallery in Montreal called Commissaires, we meet owner-partner Josee Lepage, discover she and partner Pierre Laramee are correction: co-publishing Indulgences with Citizen:Citizen, a new collection from Tobias Wong and Ken Courtney, turns out Indulgences is also manufactured in Montreal and Josee is an old friend of Tobi (that's Ken, Josee and Tobi above in New York), we ask Josee to do an interview with Tobi and Ken.

"What’s the opposite of indulgence? Denial.". It's my favorite part of this interview. I'm not a fan of drug culture, but as Sabine would surely say, it's better to acknowledge it than stick your head in the sand. Indulgences is art for me, it works on many levels. Choose yours, read the interview.

JL: How did you two meet ?

Ken: We met through a woman named Rachel Ward, who was the curator of Terminal 5. After having met both of us separately, she was sure we’d have a lot in common and introduced us.

Tobi: Oh yeah. But we REALLY got to know each other on Friendster.

JL: How would you define your work ?

Ken: My work varies, but it always addresses celebrity, conspicuous consumption, and the commodification of names and brands in contemporary media.

Tobi: The sign of recognition of a Wong creation is the excellence of the finish, immediately evident to the initiated. Each detail of fabrication speaks of the very special attention paid to quality and whispers absolute exclusivity.

JL: Why indulgence ? and Why together ?

Ken: It was all born from my wanting to cast the McDonald’s coffee stirrer in gold. I was browsing around on eBay one (1) night and came across one of the original stirrers someone was selling. It described how the spoons had been taken off the market in the late 70’s by the McDonald’s corporation when they found out that people were using them to do cocaine. I called Tobi and asked him to help me find a jeweler to work with and he mentioned the Bic Pen cap idea. That’s when I decided we should collaborate and make an entire line. Pun intended.

Tobi: Why indulgence? Well, I’m a man of extremes. And what’s the opposite of indulgence? Denial. I’m not going for denial. I’m not that spiritual, so indulgence it is. I suppose there is a middle-ground between indulgence and denial, but the middle is boring. Nothing happens there. I mean, take the Midwest for example, or Mid-life, or the Mid-East...


JL: What do you think about consumption today and what is your duty as a designer ?

Ken: Consumption of luxury goods today is unparalleled, as is the production of luxury goods. Everything is being turned into a luxury item it seems. Hence, our collection: a set of objects that are what I consider to be the ultimate luxuries, as they’re really not necessary in the first place.

Tobi: As far as what seems to be a higher level of consumption these days, it’s all relative. We’re just buying bigger things. And more of them. My duty as a designer is to supply those consuming with something to consume. Just think how fucking crazy people would be with all that money and nothing to spend it on!

JL: How do you reinvent yourself ?

Ken: I don’t intentionally do so. My attention span is very short. I get bored with things quickly and move on to new things as a result. It’s kind of like built-in self reinvention.

Tobi: I wouldn’t consider it reinvention for myself. My work depends on what’s relevant at any given moment. I guess you could consider my collaborative way of working as a method of varying how things egest as well.

JL: What are you envious about the other one’s work ?

Ken: The simplicity of every piece Toby does. They’re always so simple, yet so complex and powerful.

Tobi: The low cost of Ken’s production.

JL: What would be your "ego trip" design project ?

Ken: Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how it would be cool to work with Marc Jacobs on a line of tees or accessories for his brand. Is that ego enough? Maybe I should dream bigger?!?

Tobi: Ultimately, I’d like to do something to benefit all of humanity. That would make me feel amazing. But while I’m figuring out how to do that, a Goyard project will do...

Merci Josee!

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