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Charles Kaisin: An Ode to Madness Design - 16 March 2016

Charles Kaisin is slightly mad. The kind of madness that verges on genius. The kind of madness that tells you that the sky is your limit and that gives free rein to infinite creativity. The result? The Surrealist Dinners.

Stagecraft, creation of objects and visual identities ... For Charles Kaisin, every professional project is a poetic undertaking. The designer likes to quote Baudelaire and has turned the works of the French poet into a source of inspiration. Poetry, fantasy, tonic and allegorical images, all are on the menu of the Surrealist Dinner organised on the 20th of April in the building of the Citroën garage, one of Brussels’ modernist and emblematic buildings standing along the Canal. The theme that has emerged this year is madness. "Madness is a desire for extravagance, the unexpected, megalomania”, says Charles Kaisin. “What is crazy and what isn’t? What are the prejudices that can be considered as mad? There is also a political reading here that I feel strongly about." Who will be invited? What sensory, sensual, sensitive and savoury experience lies in store for them? Charles Kaisin is keeping it all under wraps. To whet our appetites, he talks about the previous Dinner. "It was held at Brussels City Hall. At each dinner, I want to put the spotlight on a building that is part of Brussels’ heritage. The guests were collectors, museum directors, lovers of Egyptian art, conceptual art, arte povera, art brut ... They came from all over the world. Last year, the dinner was inspired by "Correspondences", a sonnet by Baudelaire. The guests are invited to a costumed ball and everyone must respect the rule. The idea was to promote the theme of folklore, drawing on Baudelaire’s text. Marching bands from L’Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse, Royal Kituro - the rugby team that won the Belgian championship - the Choir of the Flemish Radio or the Saint Hubert Hunting Horn came to provide the entertainment during the meal". Different worlds who come together in a setting planned down to the tiniest detail. "The meal is concocted in connection with the theme. Last year, David Martin was the chef entrusted with the task. The dessert was proposed by Pierre Marcolini.” The same duo of goldsmiths will again be conjuring up the meal this year.

Unexpected combinations

Why surreal? "For me, surrealism is Magritte, Achille Chavée, Marcel Broodthaers, Breton, De Chirico, Tim Burton, Ettore Scola, Stanley Kubrick, Max Ernst ... all of whom are sources of inspiration”, says Charles Kaisin. “I love the surrealist style but I especially like the way it builds a relationship with another reality. It is made up of a series of marvels, surprises. Like when you discover the work of Lewis Carroll and you get to know Alice and her Wonderland." A team of 15 to 20 people work full time to make this Dinner a masterpiece. Everything is thought out, rehearsed, managed, timed. Nothing is left to chance. On the evening, more than 300 people who will follow the score under the leadership of the conductor Kaisin: "I get my acquaintances on board, my family is involved, there is at least one server for two guests, to ensure a perfect synchronisation of the service and so that the experience is new, unexpected, pleasant and positive. This Dinner is an opera where the viewer is not in the dress circle or in the balcony, but on the stage. Thanks to their costume, they become a fully-fledged actor and enjoy a host of intriguing scenes and acts that will complement their meal."

Sublimating craftsmanship

When he isn’t focusing on the organisation of these Dinners, Charles Kaisin above all injects his talent into decorating interiors and giving them life and soul. He has decorated a brand new hotel located in the Medina of Marrakech. "This project took 4 years. I wanted to adopt local codes to design the fourteen suites of this Riad. I worked on the theme of Baudelaire’s "Invitation to the Voyage". I took advantage of the expertise of Moroccan craftsmen, their skill with leather, marble, tiles ... giving it a contemporary touch. It is a meeting between this craftsmanship and contemporary design. For example, I covered a huge living room and a vaulted ceiling with 27,000 small squares of coloured silk, like pixels. It was a meticulous quest for geometrical forms, which I loved." Charles Kaisin likes nothing more than variety in his projects and experiences, especially if he can call on his inventiveness. Finding original solutions, creating objects, settings and events with a strong character ... that, too, is something of a Belgian mindset.

Estelle Toscanucci




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