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Mathilde Pellé

February 2024

© Andrea Mantovani

  • Craft & Design

“Designer and researcher Mathilde Pellé will board the MARIUS to carry out a study into its on-board objects that have no operational use.”

Mathilde Pellé (b. 1987) is a French designer and independent researcher.


In addition to her design work (objects and spaces), she has been directing the Soustraire research project since 2016. She uses subtraction to study forms, dissect objects, and experiment with lessness. Her work investigates accepted modern material environments and the ways of life they impose, relentlessly asking, “Why is there something here when there could be less?” She also challenges the definitions of “need,” using a variety of practices (from experimental projects with material/objects/daily realities to writing, photography, investigations, and beyond) to insinuate all manner of material lessness.


Mathilde Pellé graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, in 2012. Her first works were exhibited at Galerie VIA and ToolsGalerie. Since 2017, her experimental projects have been hosted by a variety of institutions, notably the 10th Saint-Étienne International Design Biennale in 2017; the CID at Grand-Hornu in 2018; the Deep Design Lab of the Cité du Design and Lyon Urban School in 2020; and the Association Eileen Gray. Étoile de Mer. Le Corbusier in 2021. She has been published in Décor, A°2021, Azimuts #54, and Issue #12 (HEAD – Geneva).


Her first solo exhibition, Maison Soustraire was held in 2022 at the Saint-Étienne International Design Biennale. In 2024, the Fondation Entreprise Martell will be presenting her research work as part of a dedicated exhibition.


Non-Operational On-Board Objects ­– an investigation into non-operational on-board objects.


The MARIUS is an object-system. When not at the dock, it is a closed form with no entrance. All of it (from ship to material, reserves, people, machines, containers and their contents, and so on) exists in an autonomous, enclosed space. The hull, as the interface with the marine medium, carries a finite material space. What it contains is a new situation upon each departure – the fresh material mass of a navigation being initiated.


Designer and researcher Mathilde Pellé will board the MARIUS to carry out a study into its on-board objects that have no operational use. One part of the study will involve the personal items brought by the crew members, with their emotional values and symbolic presences; the other will focus on objects held in the containers, with their market value, existing as the core purpose of the MARIUS’ navigation activity. With a few rare exceptions, these objects are never brought into use and remain anonymous. What meaning can be given to these incongruous, parallel presences in the middle of an ocean?


In this twofold investigation, Pellé (herself a non-operational on-board human) will seek to observe the detail – the unique aspect that becomes momentarily crystallized on a maritime route. Through this exploration, she will compare interrogations into the notion of need and the material environments that our societies produce and propose.

Mathilde Pellé will spend almost three weeks aboard the MARIUS container ship, crossing the Atlantic from Savannah, GA, to Dunkirk, France.

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