In early 2008, Barber & Osgerby were visited by two charming and witty French men: Alexis Fabry and Olivier Andreotti of Toluca Editions. Toluca is a niche art and photography publisher based in Paris. Alexis and Olivier produce small editions of prints, presented in boxes designed by contemporary industrial designers, with narratives by independent writers. They presented Edward Barber & Jay Osgerby with a set of photographic prints, all building portraits, by the German photographer Thomas Ruff. The task was to simply to live with the images for a while to see if this could spark an idea for the presentation box.

  • Year / 2008

Thomas Ruff's buildings appeared not to have any entrances. They were unintelligible and impenetrable. There were no living things in the images, and their apparent banality had a sinister edge. Universal had recently designed the ‘Cold War Modern’ Exhibition at the V&A Museum in London, and the photographs seemed to capture perfectly the paranoia and fear of that period and place. Barber & Osgerby treated the project as a direct material translation of their own reading of the images: faceless, hidden, impassable and hard.

The boxes, both trays and lids, weighed a combined 3.5kg. They were milled entirely from billets of 5083 grade aluminum, and then anodized. As with the buildings themselves, it is difficult to understand how to get into the boxes: they present you with a blank face. They are only defined by their precision, materiality and their aesthetic austerity. The box and the Ruff prints are accompanied by a text written by the Mexican writer and poet, Fabio Morabito.