Maximilian Holzer, design student and party maker

Interiors. Winter. Mainland (only Venetians are familiar with this word which is a world rather than just a locution).

A friend dj (I hope he will be on these pages soon too), drove me to a party whose access was only granted by word-of-mouth, the theatre is a big mansion you barely recognize. The aim of his tour was to let me get in love with the mainland – myself so lost in the marsh and in the canals.

Pitch black deep night, marvelous music, tropical temperatures inside and outside the perimeter of the skins.

The big mansion is, astonishingly, all wrapped in white – the opaline set props run one after the other by designing unreal volumes where all smiling (young) friendly people alternated themselves with artworks and creations made from scrap gave me the key, yes: they drive straight to your heart. 

I must had to immediately know who was the first among peers imagining and then drawing and let happen all this, by surrounding his persona with other out-of-the-mould souls like him or her. 

I so cut the crowd, hundreds of faces to talk with to getting to know then I get h* and the persona is a guy, Maximilian Holzer: since the first instant I glanced in his eyes I got that you cannot forget his aura. Because the here and the now as he sculpts them is pure poetry, the finest.

When I was facing myself with a design student who was barely 20 years old, I have been even more surprised and even happier.

We met again for a coffee in a spring, drowsy, Sunday afternoon beside a marsh and upon a canal  and now I can tell you about him, by leaving his words almost intact. 

Italian is not his mother tongue but he is really proficient!


I always start by asking the biography because interested to get the roots of a person in relation with the selected choices. I do the same with you even if you’re so young, around 20…

Yes, you’re right, I will be very quick! I have a German name because I come from Brunico (Alto Adige). It’s a small city surrounded by the mountains with a very locked mentality. There are not many different cultures there. We’re around 15.000 inhabitants. I grew up in a smaller village, 5000 inhabitants, and then moved in the bigger city once I changed school.

It’s a marvelous place immersed in the nature and in beautiful things. I was able to appreciate it the first time when I detached myself, when I moved in Venice.

I came in Venice to study graphic design and design at IUAV university but I’m very delusional.


I can understand you, I taught there and I’m very delusional too

I had some expectation and I needed to grow with people able to nurture my passion or just able to tell stories. I can maybe feel that there is some energy but until now, unfortunately, I did not find anyone good in this, even among the students. You’re surrounded of unmotivated people, of who is without a design. They’re here because ‘I must study’ or because ‘my father told me to study at this uni’. This puts you very down: you come here with an initiative or with something to do, something to create and you arrive where you think that you can learn because you’re surrounded by people should think the same and can therefore give you something but you do not find anything. I think it is also deriving from the personality, we’re different. 


Do you think this is caused by provincialism of the institution or of the people filling it?

It is a whole, let’ say both the things: one attires the other. Even if the university has a good online reputation and good reviews on the press, I do not think is at a good level. I cannot even explain it well. I hear quite often people telling me ’that’s how is university here, how things rule here, you’re searching for an utopia which does not exist’ but I don’t think it is true. I think indeed there is a place and a way to find what I’m searching for.


I think the same: there are very good universities provoking you and enabling you to think. Unfortunately not here. It’s also difficult to find them in Italy. Maybe there are a few more in Milan even if is more competitive and very crowded down there…

I think Italy is not the right place for design. It was maybe The Place once upon a time. As far as I understood, the Italian mentality sounds more or less like: we’d accomplished anything in design, we’re the best in the world, we do not have to proof anything else, we can lay down on the sun-chair. It does not work like that, it does not work at all without innovation.


Were your teachers bringing you to Milan Design Week?

They have just left some days free in the calendar to go by ourselves. I was there, yes. It is my second time. I love Milan during Salone del Mobile, I love its big streets, its tall buildings – the movement, the dynamics, the designs you can admire, the doors you can open…


So, were your teachers letting you go without a draft of what to see?

Yes, without a draft. I mostly visited Fuori Salone because I wanted to avoid to visit a fair for my first times. I am more on the pure artistic creativity at the moment.


There is a good design school in Bozen (Alto Adige)

Yes, it is very good but I wanted to leave and go far. I was already knowing that circuit and wanted to get a new one, I’ve just mistaken to choose Venice because of its teaching. I indeed learned a lot on the people, on how to behave in some situations and this couldn’t be achieved at home. I am also learning Italian which is not my mother tongue, I really improved it.


I got astonished, frankly, for your way to be social by coming from a such small reality as your village. You’re living as you’re always belonging to a metropolis. I told this just because we’ve met to one of your parties….surrounded by people you’ve chosen and are like you: djs, set designers…From where do you source this instinct to put people together?

I love to be put through and to go through new people because I can alway learn something, stimulate them and give back something. It is a whole, again. I think that all this comes from my roots, I did not have so many possibilities to go around even if I was traveling a lot with my family and they’ve always given me the maximum freedom to discover new worlds, new realities.

Music helped me a lot. If you can involve people through music and a spatial volume, you create the highest energy which is not visible but can be felt.


I love parties and I am also older the double of you. This said, I was not seeing such a good party as yours since a long, long time. How do you succeed?

The party where you popped in – I do many of them – has been a collaboration with a group of set designers (Laura Palmer). They came to a precedent party of mine, saw my sets and listened to my music so asked me to collaborate, to do something together. All in all, when I see there is a strong drive, a real passion I love to collaborate, to experiment, to see and to get to know together with others.


Which music do you listen when you’re alone?

So many different things. From jazz (of the Sixties, especially spiritual and soul: Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, to name a few) to new wave, to ambient or very free and experimental bytes I normally do not play so much in a dj-set.

I often play for myself, I think is the best reason to play even when I play for the audience: you’re with someones because they appreciate you a lot. I listen to disco, electronic music, soul, funk, African, Brazilian, Finnish music. I love to variate.


Have you been trained in music? Were you lucky enough to have a reference, or a master driving you in the listening?

No, my family is not having very much in common with music. 

I studied guitars for 10 years and drums for five but I did not have the perception that the music could be something going beyond the instruments and giving you a lot.

Three years ago a friend let me listen to many songs, among them the ones of a Detroit artist called Moodymann playing techno, deep house, house. With soul, jazz, disco influences. Before this episode I was listening to anything and also to very ugly music but from there I got that music had a power. It’s not only something you listen to throughout all your day and is always available via the radio. For instance, for the situation I am in with the university, music is an island where i can take shelter, to relax, to do not get mad. Also the island where to find my energy and vent.


What do you read?

I do not read much at the moment. I read a beautiful book recently, Jetzt: it means ‘now’ and is by 

Eckart Tolle. It taught me to appreciate the moment without thinking to past or to future. To try to understand what I have now without saying ‘I would be there’ or ‘I would be doing this’. I hope to do not be misunderstood, it’s very important to have a goal but in the meanwhile is also very important to do not take for granted what you have.

This book inspired me also to enjoy or to get content in some situations where before reading it I was used to say ‘I do not like it’.


Nowness, the present is exactly the dimension you’re trying to plasticize in your parties

Throw parties from me is exactly this, I can listen to the same track in many other moments but I cannot put together the same people and energies as in a party…it’s crucial for me to learn as a guest (when I go to a someone else’s party) what I feel in that moment by leaving aside the phone,  live stories on instagram, the videos…I try indeed to take this interval of time as being free from the phone because what I do the entire week is being with the mobile all the time. Why do not take a night or two a week in which I do not overthink and I try only to ‘feel’? Sometimes there is not the right situation to do this but when you choose the right place you are able to feel and appreciate this freedom.


Did you have companions showing you this or did you discover it by practices or readings?

I was having some friends at home where I was throwing parties as well but there were fewer people. We were pushing ourselves together to search something more, to find new worlds. Music is something right for me, I did not like and do not to run only on one way because world is so big. I want to understand, to feel and then to take the right way, the most convincing for me doesn’t matter its position in the world.


Your relation with visual art and fashion is very strong as is perceived. You pay heaps of attention to aesthetic details not only on your body but in your created rooms. Who inspired you?

I’m not very keen of fashion but is true that I do care for aesthetics, I love to see beautiful things and to learn how they intrigue me. Among designers and architects I loved and got inspired a lot by are Ray and Charles Eames, I love the way they cared details.

I love Bruno Munari too because he experimented and succeeded to communicate what is not immediately perceivable as beauty but if put it in the right context it communicates more than the previous!

But, at end, I go always back to music with artists who give me mental openness and attention to experimentation. An artist who did a lot in this sense is Arthur Russel who run many genres, got lots of aliases, joined many bands – anything from free jazz to indie rock to disco. His life is also very peculiar. 

You always need very keen people pushing in this way, with whom to share.

I saw that also in his life. He was always surrounded by open people, free minds. l love to find that, where nourishment is reciprocal. I do not find this quite often, but when I find it I really appreciate.


Do you visit exhibits in Venice?

I tried to visit as much as possible at Biennales, here in Venice I find very little but maybe I do not look for enough. Venice seems to me a place where there are few projects to discover and lots of drawings tom make, lots of room to draw yourself. But you have not so much room to get inspired. It is exactly what I need that’s why I want to go away. In a bigger city with more people and more culture. Where to pick the door to open and which rooms to discover.

To see is so important to me, at the end even to do not choose. I need to have a lot around me to take a decision.


Are you thinking to apply for a German language university?

Yes, I am at the moment applying to ECAL.


I was guessing it already, before you’re replying…

I’m trying to have my Erasmus there, it’s hard to be admitted. I really long to escape from this school situation! I would be then in Berlin to have my MA or other. I wanted to do so also at the beginning but given I studied language before I was not having a portfolio to show.

What can I do without a portfolio? I discovered that in Italy they take you without it if you pass the admission test. That’s why I ended at Iuav, and of course it was a wrong decision. At the end I’m happy the same, I found so many other nice things and I also leaned that I want something different with more freedom, personality and identity. Where there is lots of disciplines and rules to follow but where I can express myself more freely. You’ve also rules here but it’s not possible to do what you wish. What I wish to do is to find myself, to find my way. That’s why I need personality and identity.

I also wished to apply for a stage but the first thing they ask also there is your portfolio. Here at the university we’re called to work on the professors’ jobs, always. So I do not have time to develop mine. So I took the decision to create my portfolio by choosing some works done at the uni with the professors and some designs for my sets. It communicates the same my personality even if it is not graphic design or product design.


Which kind of traveler are you?

I never long to see the usual sights (churches, museums) but places off the beaten tracks so to see what is really the place I’m visiting. I escape from the tourism habits and love more authentic districts or even places out of the centre. When I travel I always look for music so where I find the right shops I always find the most authentic places to understand how people dwell there: maybe I see horrible places but I see the truth. I love very much this of Berlin, for instance.


What do you like to eat?

Fish, healthy, weird.

I love particular meals where at the very beginning I do not say ‘what tasty, how nice is’ but then, afterward, I appreciate them.

I love to eat light meals because my mum is very much into the herbs, the wood, the nature so I have to thank her for this imprint. When I was younger I did not get along very much always with cous cous and sauces because I wanted a sausage very badly. 

I feel better and have much more energy by eating heathy.

I also had a meatless time which gave me a lot and helped. I think is nice to have a combination and I love to eat meat when it is very good. When I do not have it, I prefer vegetarian and vegan meals.


Where do you see yourself in ten years is the way we usually end our conversations…

It’s a very hard question. I would be in a satisfying situation where I do something for an aim and even if I get overwhelmed by working I get that there is a good mission.

I would love authenticity: I love to tell always the truth without thinking to anything else. Sometimes I find hard to get the people because they say something but thing to something extremely different. Sometimes I also catch myself to do something totally distracted and so I tell to myself ‘I’m in this way why do I attempt to be someone else? there is already that other person’


The color obsessing you now?

Maybe red. I don’t know, also this is hard. Also green. No, maybe red.


Cover image: Maximilian Holzer in Venice  portrayed by Diana Marrone

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