Cohen's Artificial Biological Clock appeared in the MoMa exhibition Talk To Me in 2011 and was later purchased for the permanent collection at the New York institution. Van Balen's project Pigeon D'Or, a bacteria added to pigeon feed which makes pigeons poo soap to clean the streets, recently won the Vida 14.0 prize in Spain and their joint project The Immortal, a series of organ replacement machines connected in a semi-biological circuit, was recently exhibited at The Wellcome Collection in London.
Here Cohen speaks to Disegno on a recent trip to Tokyo, about the decision to officially join forces with Van Balen.
How come you decided to combine your two practices as Cohen Van Balen?
In a way the work decided for us. We realised that our projects were becoming more and more ambitious and complex, and no longer a one-person's job. While building The Immortal it became apparent that it doesn't make sense to run two separate practices from one studio anymore.
Will this change the direction of your work?
Not at all, if anything the decision to join came out of the realisation that our individual work was moving more and more towards the same direction. For us the change is mostly in refining the operation in order to take on bigger peojects, while also allowing for smaller commissions or consultancy.
What happens to the previous projects that have been produced under your separate names? Do they become part of a joint archive or do you keep them separate?
Everything becomes part of a joint archive. From the start we have been extremely involved in each other's work so it feels natural to have the portfolio under one name.
Have you moved studios as part of the new studio launch?
No, we are still in our incredible Hackney Downs space that we share with Liam Young.
Neither of you are British by birth but you have built a base here and found a unique position within speculative/experimental design, will you stay and why?
This is a question we often ask ourselves too, even after a decade in this city. We feel that London is an extraordinary place for design, where the culture really accepts and supports a non-diciplinary practice such as ours. Since we've both been educated here there's also a strong connection to the British design ethos and the RCA scene. Saying that, you never know.
Getting the Vida 14.0 prize must make a big difference to you both in terms of recognition and financially. What is happening next with the Pigeon D'Or Project?
At the moment we are fully focused on the new works in development. The pigeons will continue to tour, with the next exhibitions coming up in Slovenia, Belgium and Spain.
What are you doing in Tokyo?
We are here to do some filming for an Arts Catalyst commission, as well as research towards a big project set for 2014. Very exciting!