New York-based Apparatus’ latest collection, ACT III, is creative director Gabriel Hendifar’s attempt to draw a tangible connection to the distant memories of his Iranian heritage, while outlining the country’s current political obstacles.
Launched during the 2018 Salone del Mobile, it is the first time the studio’s creative direction dives into a personal cultural history. Hendifar is a first-generation American who’s grandmother relocated from Iran to the United Stated in 1979 as a political refugee, bringing with her a small number of personal belongings, one of them being a Khatam box (a jewely box created in a marquetry style using inlays of various materials)- which serves as the genesis of the overall collection.
ACT III aims to create a series of products that are seemingly “suspended in time, while also imagining it as a futurist fantasy”, while addressing present day challenges with regards to Iran’s current political barriers, namely embargoes.
The overall collection includes five series: Median, Talisman, Drum, Pars, and Shiraz, whic encapsulate a pan-cultural aesthetic with elements created in Tehran, Italy, and the United States.
The Median Series features a contrast of alabaster planes intersected by a fluted brass form, which references traditional jewelry found in the Middle East region, rendered in a futurist style. With the light source remaining hidden, the illumination on the surface of the stones appears as if coming from within.
Talisman features an arrangement of semi-precious stones that references the fine details that can be found on states in the ancient city of Persepolis, including Agate, Jasper, and Jade beads. These beads are then pierced by finely fluted pins, affixing them to a leather-bound brass structure.
The Drum Series recalls an instrument that is vital in Persian music – the Tombak – rendered as a table. Parchment is hand-stretched over the table surface, while the veneered legs curve to echo the shape of the suspended parchment volume.
Pars is inspired by the nomadic tray tables found across the Middle East, and features hand-cut leather disk stacks wrap around its long brass legs, while inset leather rounds provide soft points of interaction in the stone table surfaces.
Lastly, the Shiraz Series, which is inspired by the old capital of Persian culture, imagines objects of pan-cultural influence – referencing the city’s prominent position as a central hub on the Silk Road and a meeting point of exchange between the Orient and the Occident.
The collection is a modernist interpretation of classical western forms with the intricate, geometric style of Persian marquetry called Khatam which originated in the city under the same name (the hometown of Hendifar’s grandmother).
The initial plans were to create two variations: the first rendered in solid brass and punctuated by marble elements produced in Italy. The section version was planned as a limited edition, with pieces produced in the Khatam tradition by artisans in Iran, using thousands of pieces of wood, metal, and camel bone to wrap forms in a kaleidoscopic pattern.
However, due to current US sanctions against trade with Iran, which recently have been expanded to include art objects, prevented the design studio from creating the limited edition series.