COMPANY is Aamu Song & Johan Olin's design practice based in Helsinki. Song and Olin work as artists, designers, and producers, running their studio as well as their own shop Salakauppa. Their work is regularly shown in art and design contexts both in Finland and internationally. 

Central to the duo's work is exceptionally committed, long-term, in-depth and collaborative research on particular (in many cases under appreciated or forgotten) materials, traditional craft skills and manufacturing techniques. Through their on-going project Secrets of… Song and Olin have worked so far in seven countries, together with numerous skilled makers and craftspeople. These collaborations have resulted in limited editions and of highly imaginative objects that defy categorisations, hovering happily somewhere between art, design and everyday functional artefacts.

The designs are brought about by an intensely collaborative process, during which Olin and Song engage with the manufacturers and try to figure out what they would be happy making – an approach dramatically different to the more typical design process, where designers take their ideas to the manufacturers. In Olin and Song's case, the designs are often also realised while the duo is present at the facility. The communication – usually defined by the lack of common spoken or written language – is a significant part of the process. A big part of the communication happens through means like drawing or gesturing. 

One of their most internationally acclaimed projects has been Reddress, where an audience of 238 people was seated inside a sculptural dress-stage made out of 550 metres of bright red fabric. Elevated, in the very centre stood one singer, performing an unforgettable concert accompanied by a world-class orchestra. At the moment, in summer 2016, one of COMPANY's most recent projects, Mushroom Forest (featuring Tsugaru nuri lacquer technique) from the Secrets of Northern Japan series is part of the show Objects of Desire at Design Museum Finland (curated by Suvi Saloniemi). The exhibition explores contemporary one-off and edition-based design objects that combine new craftsmanship and conceptual design. 

Currently the duo is collaborating with an Amish community in the U.S., for an exhibition that will take place in New York in the Autumn. As the Amish community in question is committed to leading a life without electricity, getting into contact and corresponding (via hand written letters) has required even more time than usual. For the designers, working with a community uninfluenced by most of the technological and industrial development of the past 150 years has provided a chance to travel in time. In relation to the wider Frontiers in Retreat discussions, it opens up possibilities to imagine how contemporary life might be like without electricity and the contemporary conveniencies dependent on it. 

COMPANY will be part of the third-wave of Frontiers in Retreat artists, with their first residency taking place in November 2016 in Belgrade, Serbia. Hosted by KC Grad, Song and Olin will connect with local manufacturing facilities in the search for yet further secrets.

– Jenni Nurmenniemi, ​Curator, Frontiers in Retreat; HIAP Facebook Instagram