Like the mad machines he builds, Swedish designer Love Hultén is one of a kind. We got together to find out what inspires him to keep building

Imagine a universe where Korg, Atari and Frank Lloyd Wright join forces to open a synth boutique-cum-games arcade, and you’re somewhere near the visual realm of Gothenburg’s Love Hultén. At once fascinated by the haptics and audio-visual characters of musical interfaces and classic video games, Hultén says he specialises in “audiovisual contraptions that combine traditional craftsmanship with modern technology”.

So whether deftly rehousing existing units like the Korg Minilogue or the Super Nintendo, or creating his own (witness the outrageous Axoloti Core-based VOC-25, a conceptual vocal synth consisting of 25 sets of plastic teeth), Hultén’s aesthetic leans toward the retro-futurist but eludes definitive categorisation. Time to meet the man behind the machine…

Your work moves freely between the worlds of video games and musical instruments, often combining the two. What’s the link?

“I grew up playing video games and making music, so my projects are just forms of my own personal interests. And for me, both those areas are based around tactility and interaction. A sense of control with instant physical feedback, a sort of reaction to numb touch technology, I guess. I try to combine them both occasionally. Sometimes it works, sometimes I’m just creating strange monsters. But strange monsters are part of my creative process – they tickle the conceptual artist in me.“

More broadly, there’s often a retro aesthetic there. Is that a nostalgic thing?

“What is affecting product design negatively today, in my opinion, is the industry itself and the throwaway products it keeps churning out to consumers desperately craving the latest iPhone model. My work is a reaction to that. I’m quite inspired by mid-20th century concepts, when we had a different view on quality and craftsmanship – material knowledge in combination with accomplished execution. For instance, using a material that grows a unique patina without regular maintenance and daily care extends the expiration date of the final product. It will breathe through time, rather than get suffocated by it.

“The mashed-up references in my work have a triggering effect on people, I guess. But I want them to be enlightened, not just feel nostalgic. Nostalgia is involved to a certain extent, yes, but it’s not about looking backwards. It’s about taking steps in different directions simultaneously by using fragments from both the past and today, creating unique and balanced objects.”

How did you get started in woodworking?

“I attended a local school of design in 2010 and discovered my passion for woodworking there. I then had an exam in traditional cabinet-making, only to realise that classic carpentry was not my thing. The raw materials found in the wood shop were a perfect complement to the electronic projects I’d been experimenting with since my youth. Creating straightforward furniture will never be my go-to, but every now and then I break from my tech-y routines to make the occasional chair or table!”

If you had to choose one design that best represents your approach…

“My Bivalvia Synthesis is a good representation for me and my work. It’s small and precious, makes sound, has that recognisable but still inexplicit interface that triggers curiosity and uses a revealing/folding clamshell casing. It’s an alien gemstone. On the more conceptual side, I think VOC-25 is a great piece that speaks about my need for dysfunctional joy, as an artist and in life.”

Anything you’re particularly excited about for 2022?

“I’m very excited about diving into 2022 with fresh perspectives and crazy visions. This year will be focused on sound, not so much game-related work. I will also dive deeper into the more dysfunctional and conceptual stuff, but I’ll try to be wiser and kinder to myself. I need to start prioritising! I’m doing props for a surrealistic French low-budget movie – now, that’s fun. I would love to take on more projects like that… shape a room and create a full atmosphere. It’s fun doing the individual pieces, but for me they often feel taken out of context somehow.“

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