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Complexity is Free


Monday, January 12, 2015

«Innovation can’t be found in the drawing of an object but in the use that is made of technology, materials, techniques. Technology has no interest for its image, but it is interesting for the service it offers. Its image must disappear, melt into the object. Technology is at the service of the result : price, lightness, comfort…» Patrick Jouin

 

OneShot.MGX_01

OneShot.MGX by Patrick Jouin[x]

OneShot.MGX is a 3D-printed stool designed by the french designer Partick Jouin in 2004.

This stool was manufactured using the 3D printing technique. Born in the mid 1980s, 3D printing, more formally known as additive manufacturing, was used at this time for visual prototyping. But companies such as Materialise soon realized that the technology had the potential to do more than just producing prototypes. In 2003, .MGX by Materialise was founded and they invited world-class designers to experiment with this new technique and come up with novel products that were only possible with this new technology. Patrick Jouin was one of them and created on this occasion two chairs, a table and this stool.

I consider this item as one of the the most relevant among the Stedelijk’s design collection. Innovative, surprising, light, handy, delicate, subtile… it satisfies all the expectations that we have from a stool. You can take it anywhere easily, store it in a cupboard, in the car, in your bag. This object is in harmony with Patrick Jouin’s philosophy if we believe his words : «The objects we draw today are more discrete. They are more «affectuous». Discrete friends. They don’t tell less, they simply do it more slowly. It’s like homeopathy. They diffuse rather than they speak.»  I discovered Patrick at the same time as his product during the exhibition. He has a clear mind about what is going on in design nowadays. He created his own agency in 1998 after some years at Philippe Strack’s agency. His style is often qualified as discrete.

Patrick Jouin is really interested in experimenting new technologies. In an interview about rapid prototyping, P.J. said «The distance in between the creation, the drawing, and the final object was very short. It was like a sketch which is coming alive and taking shape in 3D. I know that every time in the history of design, when there is a new technology, there is always a new aesthetic.»

Patrick Jouin talking about 3D Printing

«Industrial production requires a radical conversion : we must start from the function of the object and possibilities of the machine. The limited performance of the craft production allowed sometimes the realization of original or richly decorated forms. Production by the machine, in series, needs a simplification of manufacturing’s forms and processes.» Willem Sandberg wrote these words around 1970 in a catalogue about the german designer Wilhelm Wagenfeld. Should we consider this way of thinking as still relevant nowadays ? New technologies such as 3D printing make these ideas a bit old-fashioned. I am not saying that this aesthetic is over, but 3D printing doesn’t undergo the same rules as the more industrial technique. Patrick Jouin said : «There are so many aspects, undiscovered yet, it is a new way to think how an object can be made.»

In his book Fabricated : The New World of 3D Printing, Cornell University researcher Hod Lipson describes ten of the underlying principles fundamental to 3D printing. The first principle he notes is that «manufacturing complexity is free». Unlike traditional manufacturing processes, where extra complexity requires a more expensive mold with more parts, there is no penalty with 3D printing when an object is made more complex. On the contrary, in some cases there may even be a benefit. With 3D printing, designers and artists can explore new kinds of highly complex and intricate forms that would have been impossible to realize with traditional techniques, and these come at no extra cost. It is a proverbial candy store of new formal possibilities, resulting in a new design language that is baroque and often eclectic.

Kram/Weisshaar, Multithread

Multithread #06 Console Shelf[x]

«Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to». It is true that there is a risk of overuse, a risk that it becomes too much. What should designers do now that complexity is not a problem anymore. Designers are still in the early stages of the search for aesthetic in 3D printing. Many of the experiment we see today may appear outdated in ten years, but they are playing an important role in paving the way. With an increasing number of designers, artists, and makers gaining access to 3D printing, a mature formal language will develop over time, uniting and exploiting the full potential of the technology’s aesthetic powers.

«…people often proclaims grand ideas, things that are just after all, the qualities expected about an object. What an object owes us.» Patrick Jouin

Many studios and companies are working on developing this technique. In Amsterdam, we have the 3D Print Canal House, the first 3D-printed house. It also acts as an exhibition and interactive research center for 3D-printed architecture and related areas, such as material recycling, policy making, and smart electricity grids. The 3D Print Canal House has been printed on-site with the KamerMaker, a shipping container that has been converted into a giant 3D printer.

Since 1998 Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California has been developing a layered manufacturing process called Contour Crafting, in which cement or concrete is pumped through a nozzle connected to a computer-controlled crane or gantry. This draws the contours of the largescale structure to be built layer by layer.

 

Foster+Partners, Lunar Base

3D printing with Lunar soil by Foster + Partners[x]

Enrico Dini, a passionate Italian inventor, has teamed up with the European Space Agency and the architects Foster+Partners to test the feasibility of a 3D-printed permanent moon bases built out of moondust. Contour Crafting is also aiming for the moon in a partnership the NASA. Give the significant challenges of scaling up 3D printing machinery to encompass an entire building, many concluded that, for the time being, the most pragmatic approach is to fabricate constructions in sections and then to stack these sections on-site.

Finally, if you are interested, I link you to some studios who realized some nice project with the 3D printing technique. I hope you enjoyed this article.

3D printing is definitely the technology of tomorrow.

THE MODEL


Sunday, January 11, 2015

A model is initially an object whose purpose is either to represent the real world or to be translated into the real world, in short the model can be a copy of reality or reality a copy of the model. The main difference is in terms of scale. Usually the model is a miniature of reality. But what more can it be? When we look at a toy car and a car, what do we see? Is the toy car just a replica of the car in a tiny scale? It is hard to analyze such a thing but I think that there is a huge difference triggered by (but not exclusively) the change of scale. When the toy car is made, it has no longer the same purpose as the car does. A child playing with it might as well imagine it just as real as the car and drive it around with his fingers, or see it in a whole new world, making it fly away, fist-fight and dance Rock n’ Roll. The new scale for things sometimes creates a new meaning for them above representation, a new reality even if they are seemingly the same object in different sizes.

A perfect embodiment of this idea is seen in the Tim Burton film Beetlejuice. The movie takes place in a small town and specifically in a house on top of a hill overlooking the town. In the opening scene (link here and here for the end with spider) a fake areal shot of the town is taken on a model of the town one of the main characters has built. We are tricked into believing that we are flying over a forest to finally overlook the whole town, then fly over and across it all the way to the house on top of the hill. Although it is possible to see that the scene is really shot on a model, the illusion is strong, and we are astonished to see a real spider (this time) which seems to be the size of a hippo, climb over the roof and be picked up by a real (gigantic) hand. What this illusion does is it gives life to the model, it gives it a new reality, and this is proved later on in the movie when we discover that the model has an “inhabitant”. When the protagonists are changed to the scale of the model, (in this scene) they come to its graveyard to dig up the main antagonist, Beetlejuice. In this case, the change of scale for real world to model is more than representation, the real world and the model are entangled, mingled into each other, whilst the two are different, the real world and the new world of the model. In conclusion, the model can be much more than representative, it can open a whole new world for our imagination to create, but in the case of the one done by Rietveld, the model is again something else.
 

model

sketch model of van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam by Gerrit Rietveld [object: SM]

In 1963-1964, the furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) designs the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum. In 1964 the architect dies before the project is finished. The building is completed by his partners  J. Van Dillen and J. Van Tricht, and the construction was concluded in 1973. The model exposed in the design collection of the Stedelijk was produced by Gerrit Rietveld in those first two years. It is a sketchy model made of wood, paper, cardboard and glass. The final building is close but does not respect this concept, with a unified color of brick and very little white (from front).
I present this piece for multiple reasons. First, because in my personal taste, I prefer this version from the finished one. Rich in contrast between black and white rectangles overlapping each other, the building has the balanced complexity of the Rietveld style although the shapes which compose it stay simple and limited (only colors: white, black and blue) which gives sobriety to the building. When we look at the final museum’s front view, the unity in brick color makes the building lose its striking composition at first sight, for the overlapping rectangles melt into each other. The second reason why I chose this model is because of the way it was made, without any connection to the building itself. I see in between the other models of the museum [x], well built, detailed and clean; something of a stain. On a dirty piece of wood on which we can see quick pencil sketches for the display, an irregular, clumsy, and worn little building is erected. The colors are simply indicated by a rapid and un-precise use of color pencils ( blue and black). The materials used are cheap, and if we try we might not even find one horizontal or vertical line. And yet it is beautiful, marrying complexity and simplicity in form and color, with a rich diversity of cheap materials. Its cheapness gives it a poetic and rough authentic aspect, we see that it was handmade.
 

James Castle

 
This may remind us of James Castle’s sown cardboard sculptures, which are made of scrap which gives them strength, or Bill Traylor’s choice (or no choice) of using cheap surfaces like cardboard for his paintings.
 
Bill Traylor blue man with suitcase James Castle

The model is in addition to this, very close to the final version. That sketchy but precise model shows the talent of Gerrit Rietveld as an architect, like the lines of a great draftsman. Its clumsiness along with the use of paper, lightly put together and slight curved, gives a feeling of fragility and tenderness which contrasts with the strongly built shapes of Rietveld’s buildings or the roughness of the materials.
I love this model because –to me– it is not a model anymore but a sculpture that contrasts with what we usually see, giving a new idea of his work and of what a model can be, even though it was not intended to become a piece of art.
 

Our position towards the food industry : A shift from the 1920′s to today


Sunday, January 11, 2015

                                                                                               Berkel Ham from Berkel LTD. Rotterdam (1928) By Paul Schuitema. 

In the Stedelijk’s permanent design collection, I chose one of Paul Schuitema’s posters. Paul Schuitema (1897-1973) is a Dutch graphic designer who constructed his advertisements on the principles of De Stijl and Constructivism. He also was a furniture designer, photographer and typographer. He lived during the time of industrialization and of mass production after World War one. These periods can be felt in his poster and the subject chosen. He started to use Photomontage in 1926 and was one of the pioneers of this technique in the field of industrial design.

Schuitema

This poster is an advertising print for food processing industries. It was situated amongst others of his in the Stedelijk’s Design collection. It was explained how photography, not yet considered as an autonomous art, was used for another medium’s finality. Photography was newly used in the 1930’s in order to bring further other types of art.

This is what first appealed to me when I encountered this poster. It felt relevant to our times and to how students work on most of their projects. More and more of the final projects aren’t only constructed of one medium. For example photography is rarely a finality in itself, but a way to get to an other specific result. This new technique of photomontage is relevant to our time in that way. In projects, the medium used is now rarely thought as a finality in itself.

After paying attention to it as a poster – It’s design qualities and it’s historical position in the development of arts – I looked at it in it’s original function. This poster was designed in 1928 as an advertisement for the Berkel Ham industry. This subject, presented in the poster, actually takes over its technique and style. It appealed to me more when I tried to look at it in its original context. Food nowadays is still advertised everywhere, however the energy coming out of them feels different. Therefore, I started to question the accuracy of this poster, for us today, on that matter.

Food and its industry is a constant subject today – where it comes from, what is in it, how we eat it, how to eat in a balanced way, the products used for its production… The worry of how we feed ourselves could be considered as one of society’s current obsession. Seen from this point of view, this poster underlines the change of perception we have of food, from the 1930’s to nowadays.

The typography, the choice of photography, and the way the whole poster is disposed, gives me a feeling of playfulness and simplicity. A feeling of innocence almost emerges out of it. As I looked through other food advertisements, the gap seemed even more clear:

Vintage-Meat-Ads-03-634x920           50cannedmeat

These posters were used as advertisements in the 1940’s and 50’s. Sentences as :  « This is not just a piece of meat … this is something a man wants to come home to … something that helps children to grow … something that makes women proud of their meals », were used. If these posters were contemporary, they could almost only be received in a satiric way.

Andreas Gursky’s photo « 99 cent » (1999) states a point of vue which completely contradicts with the posters above. Without giving us a direct position to take towards this subject, Andreas Gursky still pushes a feeling of being overwhelmed and crushed under the overtake of food industry. The feeling is completely contradictory to the one Paul Schuitema’s poster gives us. Both art pieces are thoughtfully structured but opposing themselves in their function.

Gursky4-e1311927651766

They are however hard to compare as one is an advertisement and the other, a photography piece. I used Andreas Gursky’s photography as an example of what continuously changed our minds on the food industry. It is pieces of art as this one that put us aware and more distant from the advertisements we see.

Art pieces (with « 99 cent » as an example), the overflow of news and a number of new scientific researches, give us a constant possibility to mistrust what is shown to us in advertisements. It is why Paul Schuitema’s poster struck me more than his others. His image underlines such a great gap of how society approached food industry at the time to now. This contrast points out how much we make it a constant worry. His poster isn’t accurate for today’s society, which is what pushes its relevance in the Design Collection. It is relevant in its design – to how some of us work today – , and relevant in its subject – as it is one of today’s main concerns.

 

 

 

”CULTURE – APPROPRIATED BY COPYING”


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Studio Wieki Somers

 

”Chinese stools – made in China copied by Dutch” is a work that dutch artist Wieki Somers finished in 2007 and was added to the permanent collection at the Stedelijk Museum of Modern art in Amsterdam in 2009. The work is the result of a one month long project that Somers spent in Beijing, China working with the expertise of local craftsmen in their traditional workshops to create products inspired by the city itself.  Somers found inspiration in customized seats used by people such as security guards, street vendors and rickshaw-drivers that had undergone improvised repairs and modifications by its respective creators. In Somers  own words she ”couldn’t do it better” than the original creators of the seats and therefore purchased some of them, used traditional casting techniques, made replicas of the original seats, with the ”final” version being in aluminum with red (or blue) metallic car lacquer finish. When Somers chooses to completely copy the work of somebody else she explains it as making a comment on the prejudice of ”China” copying European designs and works.

The subject in Somers work can be closely compared to the work Bastard Chairs / Sitting in China (2002)” of photographer Michael Wolf. While both Wolfs and Somers work portrays and comment on the democracy of design, DIY-culture they still become works of cultural appropriation despite of and even because of their seemingly sympathetic intentions.

The complexity does not only come with the European artist portraying something of a culture that is not his/her own. It also comes when Somers only spends a month in Beijing, a city of almost 20 million and talks about preserving the memories of the stools, memories that are not hers, and describes the red coated finish of the stools as a reference to ”the other side of Beijing”. ”The other side” meaning to her the ”modern side” where she explains that ”pride and prosperity is displayed with a sparkling extra layer”. Through this she defines the city by implying that the city might only have 2 sides and maybe she even gives us insight on her view on taste in the ’the modern Beijing’.

The same complexity becomes apparent when Michael Wolf refers to his work as a “great symbol of the Chinese people’s thriftiness and resourcefulness”. In the artists own description of their works and in what others have written, you constantly see a clear Eurocentric perspective and interpret an almost condescending, even if not intentional, tone (as in Wolfs quote above). When Somers comments on copying Chinese designs she infarct copies something created by ”regular people” while the prejudice she is commenting on is of Chinese designers copying European ones. This creates a situation where Chinese design isn’t being taken seriously and in which Somers uses her position in the cultural hierarchy by pointing out the ”cultural treasures” of a culture that isn’t hers. And by doing so she implies that the people of that particular culture cannot see or simply do not understand what she does.

 

Comparison

 

 

Cultural appropriation is in itself a real issue because it demonstrates the imbalance of power that still remains between cultures that have been colonized and the ex-colonizers. And the relationship east and west/orient and occident is in itself complex. Whether the culture has been colonized or not the western perspective is post-colonial in how it puts the west, right on top of the cultural hierarchy.

CA still often becomes a hard concept to grasp.

One reason is how culture is never created, lived, consumed or appropriated in a vacuum.

It is explained by Cynthia Freeland when talking about “cultural crossings”; “No culture is homogenous or has gone untouched by the world. The purest-seeming instances of cultural values are often products of complex strands of interaction”

Another reason for CA being hard to grasp for many is how ‘the west’ is so used to pressing their own culture onto others and taking what they want in return. Not thinking of how using someone else’s ‘cultural symbols’ to satisfy a personal need for self-expression is in itself an exercise in privilege.

Pierre Doze refers to Wieki Somers work describing it as ’cultural play’ and goes on talking about the risk in employing elements that are ’deeply emblematic’ of a culture. Doze continues; ” This affinity for symbols that are (apparently) exhausted, vulgarized and have become difficult to handle since they have already been exploited and miss used by ‘Mass Culture’ illustrates the designers recurrent approach”. Dozes text coming from the Studio Wieki Somers own book

Out of the ordinary’ lets us know the designer isn’t fully unaware of the complexity in this issue.

Complexity doesn’t mean that ‘cultural play’ or cultural exchange can never happen, or that we can never partake in one another’s cultures. But there needs to be some element of mutual understanding, equality, and respect for it to be a true exchange.

Freeland comments on philosopher John Dewey view that art would be the ‘expression of the life of a community’; “ We must know ‘external facts’ before trying to acquire the ‘internal’ attitude of appreciation for another community’s art”

Wieki Somers work appropriates not only Chinese culture but also on working class culture, while its intent still might be the upvalueing of DIY-made objects or even commenting on appropriation itself.

The writer Jarune Uwujaren explains it in simple words in ”Everyday Feminism magazine”;

 “When someone’s behavior is labeled culturally appropriative, it’s usually not about that specific person being horrible and evil. It’s about a centuries’ old pattern of taking, stealing, exploiting, and misunderstanding the history and symbols that are meaningful to people of marginalized cultures. The intentions of the inadvertent appropriator are irrelevant in this context.”

Personally I am not sure I can fully agree that intent can ever be completely ’irrelevant’ but has to be seen as such for the discourse to progress. A discourse that is something that is not only relevant in design today but in fashion, music, film, television and fine arts as well.

Especially in a work as layered as Weiki Somers ”Chinese stools – made in China copied by Dutch” it becomes obvious that the discourse stays relevant for how we have to critically view design today and hopefully how we will view the design in the future.

Who is Gherpe? About Superarchitecture and corruption by conventions


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Gherpe – a lamp designed by Superstudio
Gherpe
 (via:http://www.nova68.com/gherpelamp.html)

I think the Gherpe lamp is a relevant design because of several reasons. First of all, the lamp itself is made of materials that are still considered modern, even though it was designed more then forty years ago. That alone already shows how we still hang on to, or maybe are condemned to these materials nowadays. Next to that is the design, which references to the mathematics that appear in Nautilus shells. Then again the way this shape is interpreted is more like a cartoon of it, leaving the classical Nautilus image behind. This way of designing, letting interests and research – the designer was into marine biology – influence the work is something I think many designers work like, or would like to work like. Last reason why I think this is a relevant piece is because I think the whole of Superstudio, their designs and mainly their architecture is, because of their new views and extensive researches, relevant. They were part of a critical wave, commenting on Florence and it’s ancient heritage, on the years of full trust in technology and on architects before them. They wanted designers to be responsible for their creations when they design to make a better world. Their criticality on how design and architecture influences the life of other people and self-reflectiveness is what made them different from many before them. This idealism in theories, but with playfulness towards the designing process itself is to my opinion something important to keep relevant in art and design.

gherpe_01


(via:http://photografieundmehr.com/pics/2012-11/gherpe_01.jpg)

Nautilus-OS

Nautilus shell

(via: http://www.hungrywalrus.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Nautilus-POS.jpg)

To test it’s relevance I’ m trying to get to know what Gherpe is, what it is not and what it could be, what it means to Superstudio and what it means to me.

At a time where popular culture is stealing all the science and logic that Modernism employed to make this world better, with youngsters starting to call themselves Mod.’s, Pop Art commenting on this Modernist reality and society by reproducing imagery from that popular culture, Gherpe is born. It’s designed by Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, and adopted by Superstudio, the Italian architecture group where Toraldo is the most important member of, together with Adolfo Natalini, who is a Pop Art painter when they found the group in 1966.

 

big_374062_2176_giulia_superstudio3

Alessandro Magris, Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, Piero Frassinelli, Roberto Magris, Adolfo Natalini
(via:http://www.domusweb.it/content/dam/domusweb/en/from-the-archive/2012/02/11/superstudio-projects-and-thoughts/big_374062_2176_giulia_superstudio3.jpg)

 

Where Modernism, in its affirmation of the human power to improve their environment the aid of practical experimentation and science, goes for logic, Gherpe pretty much mocks Modernism, by taking it’s science and it’s new materials to make something that is not in any way useful other than it’s aesthetical purpose. Gherpe is not practical, and it’s not helpful. But Gherpe’s cartoon like ambiguity looks fun, you want to have it, it looks smart even though it isn’t, and that’s exactly in line with popular culture of that day. Gherpes connection with nature is meaningless, but very important for it’s attractiveness. You could say it’s a beauty trick. The interest of Superstudio in nature combined with construction is to be traced back to one of their guides in the Academy of Architecture in Florence, which most members of Superstudio were attending. His name was Leonardo Savioli. As Adolfo Natalini says about Savioli: “Even when the drawings looked like traces of insects or explosions, galaxies, spiderwebs or wounds, they were always able to resemble parts of constructions or something constructable”.

 

Savioli_plateXVIII

Plate XVIII, a drawing by Savioli

(via:www.etsavega.net/dibex/Savioli_citta-e.htm)

 

The fact that Gherpe’s reference to nature doesn’t have any symbolism or engagement in it, already shows what things it really has to do with, things like freedom. Gherpe is free from the morals that come with modernism: Superstudio didn’t think architecture could change the world for the better. Gherpe is the joyous realization that the burden of creating something that will add to create paradise on earth is not possible.

Gherpe was in the Superarchitettura show. This was a show combining two groups. The Superstudio and Archizoom, both from Florence and mainly from the same architecture school. The show took place right after a flood had swallowed a chunk of Florence’s renaissance beauty, at a time where others mourned renaissance architectures birthplace the Superstudio show was a psychedelic experience work that purposely lacked engagement and put consumerism on a pedestal. Their ideal: morals were irrelevant to architecture, and so you should not aim to change the world with it either. So there is a different approach: “Superarchittettura accepts the logic of production and consumption, it utilizes it in an attempt at demystification” and  “Superarchitecture is the architecture of superproduction, of superconsumption, of superinduction of superconsumption, of the supermarket, of the superman, of the super gasoline”.

gherpe-archivio2

Toraldo and Gherpe, and Passiflora
(via:http://www.centrostudipoltronova.it/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/gherpe-archivio2.jpg)

Seeing Gherpe from the eye of the Superarchitecture that it is, means not that Gherpe was meant for a world better than ours, but for the world as it was in 1967, where consumption and production were exploding. You could say, Gherpe is super itself. A lamp fitting for all these phenomena that felt relevant for the younger generation at this time. Instead of denying these phenomena, or wanting to change them, Superstudio designed something that fit in. It might even accelerate superconsumption, be meant for that purpose. In this perspective Gherpe is in a way a neo-futuristic piece, a monument for the speed and mass of its time. You could also see Gherpe as an, perhaps slightly melancholic, attempt at creating something, something touchable and real out of all the superlatives that together form the ungraspable frightening dystopia that was (and is) everyday life. And maybe that this is the reason we enjoy it, because Gherpe is then our comfort, a sign that from superproduction and superconsumption something appreciable can materialize.

superarchitettura-3

Image of Superarchittettura show
(via:http://www.stylepark.com/en/news/a-landscape-of-mountains-and-valleys-the-design-parade-03-in-hyeres/283330)

Gherpe shows Superstudio’s double nature: it’s serious, socially critical but can also be ironic.  When Superstudio presents an utopian, or dystopian design we can never accept it at face value. When they design a utopia, they explore every possibility into the extreme, and so exploration of the architecture itself is it’s aim. Instead of presenting the possible solutions it tells the stories of the decisions of mankind, the ones it made and might make. A very serious and melancholic subject, reflecting their serious opinions (Adolfo Natalini: “the race of consumerism is definitely wrong”) but enabling playful and smart experimentations.

As Gherpe is an early Superstudio piece, Gherpe is also an early exploration which, as we can see in the Stedelijk, ended in a lamp. As Superstudio kept exploring their ideas became more and more critical of architecture and design, which made their projects end up way less often in actual designs and realizable architecture. Instead they expressed their ideas in movies, models and collages.

According to Superstudio architecture was corrupted to such an extent that even the avant-garde architect was guilty of suppressing human development, since he made use of existing conventions in architecture. An interesting idea, which suggests human development can come from no other place than out of the blue. Where one can ask the question what human development actually is, but let’s get back to Superstudio. They saw reason as the only quality that’s uncorrupted by these conventions. This makes it’s easy to see why they step farther away from architecture and design, as they are easily seen as complete and valid evidence of manifestos or ideas, rather than generally questioning and alienating. That doesn’t mean Superstudio didn’t make anything at all anymore, as you might expect.

Instead they found ways to visualize what architecture could be, without designing from conventions. Something that wasn’t really architecture. For the exhibition “ Italy: The New Domestic Landscape”  in the MOMA Superstudio made an 8 x 8 black square on the floor, and made it repeat itself in an endless grid by placing mirrors at the walls. They put a box with wires on each corner, making the plugs recur regularly in this “landscape” [x]. It wasn’t the first time they worked with this black grid [x], but it was the first time architecture and design was so completely dismissed that it was actually left out at all. Even though this seems like the ultimate conclusion, there’s more to the ever expanding black grid. In the Continuous Monument, a glass grid-like structure that spans all over the world, visualized in absurd collages [x] where it embraces Manhattan or faces the Taj Mahal, the irony, social critic and dystopia remains: a homogenous unrealizable blank space, but also a space where we can project our own ideas on of what it really is. Our ideas, full of conventions and corruption.

521d003de8e44effd40000a8_environments-and-counter-environments-italy-the-new-domestic-landscape-moma-1972-exhibition_5-528x362

Grid in the Moma: View of Supersurface: An Alternate Model of Life on Earth, by Superstudio, in Italy: The New Domestic Landscape, MoMA, 1972. Photo: Copyright Cristiano Toraldo di Francia.

(via: http://www.archdaily.com/421040/environments-and-counter-environments-italy-the-new-domestic-landscape-moma-1972-exhibition/)

As you understand now, Gherpe too is a piece of corruption. A mash up of conventions and brainwashing, which will, as you look at it, only corrupt and brainwash you more. Which is very true in the sense that, the more you know, the more you are stuck in the things that already are. Whether that really suppresses the development of humanity is questionable. I personally am less negative about the influences of the past and the conventions we get taught. But the fact that Superstudio deals so productively with their frustrations over a system is something everyone, defenitely every art student, can be inspired by.

Over thinking and commenting on how design works is something I find fundamentally important, as I think this self reflection is what can bring us to new insights. Insights that can be reflected on again later, a continuous process I’d say would be human development rather than corruption. But, if you are reading this, and you do happen to find yourself having been corrupted by looking at Gherpe and reading about it, then at least we can be sure about it’s relevance for the (design) world today.

 

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The Continuous Monument, one of the many collages.

(via: http://www.spaceinvading.com/bookmarklet/Images/2701091233096716superstudio_monument_1_kl.jpg)

HEAD JEWELRY


Monday, December 1, 2014

Vaclav Cigler is a czech artist mostly known for his pioneering work in glass. Since the 1950s, Cigler has focused on glass sculpture and is still today considered as one of the preeminent artists working in glass. My interest in his work though did not develop from one of his glass sculptures but from an image of a mannequin head wearing a mysterious head jewelry exhibited in Stedelijk Museum.

Head Jewelry by Václav Cigler[x]

The jewelry consists of two galvanised brass circles put together, one that is fitting the circumference of the head and one attached to the other and placed in front of the face. The placing of the circle in front of the face affects the vision of the person wearing the jewelry. It becomes a frame through which the person watch the surroundings and in that way it changes and disturbs the perception. Furthermore the circled brass acts like mirrors: when angled, it gives the wearer a view of the room or of the people around which allows the possibility of intimate eye contact or covert observation. Imagining a lot of people walking around with this jewelry in the context of today it could easily be considered as some sort of electronic device attached to the head with a chip improving human possibilities. Already in 1960 the phrase “Cyborg” was coined in a story called “Cyborgs and Space” and was used to describe a human being augmented with technological attachments which I find very interesting to put in relation with Cigler’s Head Jewelry.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/09/the-man-who-first-said-cyborg-50-years-later/63821/

When looking through some of Cigler’s work in glass it becomes clear that he is very interested in the human perception. That is also one of the reasons for his consistent interest in the work with glass because it is possible to create a new and different vision in that medium.

…Glass is the most imaginative material that man has ever created. The presence of glass in a human space conditions not only the space itself but also an as the user. Glass is for me a pretext for expressing a different spatial and emotional perception of the world. A perception made unique by the optical means offered by this material, as well as by the new possibilities for using it in space… in glass, there’s the authenticity of the material, the discovery that it has uncommon optical and material properties, such as malleability. Glass by itself is a sufficient source of inspiration.”

http://contempglass.org/artists/entry/vaclav-cigler

Head Jewelry by Václav Cigler[x]

Vane 2008 by Václav Cigler[x]

The sculpture “Vane” made in 2009 is an optical glass with an aperture in the center that gives an undistorted view of the landscape. A new visual perspective is given and what is seen is a collage space of reality. 

Again I get associations with todays development of technology both the whole experimentation with virtual reality where a person is looking through a head-mounted display seeing an unreal world physically present in the real world. But also the actual existing of real cyborgs; Neil Harbisson is considered to be the world’s first cyborg with an antenna attached to the back of his skull dangling over his forehead very similar to the shape of the head jewelry. Harbisson sees in grayscale but the antenna allows him to hear the color spectrum, even the colors that are beyond the range of human sight. 

Neil_Harbisson_cyborgist

Neil Harbisson[x]

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/06/neil-harbisson-worlds-first-cyborg-artist

He considers his decision of becoming a cyborg as an artistic statement: “I’m treating my own body and brain as a sculpture”. He is working with human perception using his own body as medium whereas Cigler uses glass to create different perceptions. Moreover, Cigler viewed jewelry as landscape for the human body as a means of connecting the body with its environment. Harbisson is literary connected with his surroundings by having the antenna which he considers just as much a part of him as any other organ or body part. Aesthetically the two objects, Head Jewelry and Eyeborg (what Harbisson calls his antenna), look very alike with their minimalistic characteristic but also their function has a lot in common if not considering the advanced technological aspect of the Eyeborg. What is interesting is how much an object can become a part of a human being and if it is really possible to not consider it as an object but as an organ. If a person got used to wearing the head-jewelry and seeing the surroundings through it, that is, having extra angles and the capability of observing secretly would this jewelry then also be thought of as a body part?

To sit like a swan


Monday, December 1, 2014

unfolded

The object in this picture is a model of ‘aluminiumstoel’ by Gerrit Rietveld. It is simply a piece of paper cut in a way that when you fold it, it turns into a miniature model of the aluminum chair. The simplicity of this design is admirable, even though the final result in steel does not really give the same feeling of organic harmony. However, this model could not represent the creator’s idea better.

 

foldedaluminum

 

Rietveld made this chair in his attempt to create a furniture using one piece of material, or more specifically, one sheet of it. In this case, he used a sheet of metal for the chair we see in the picture and it is easy to understand how he handled the material to display the result in this, since we have at our disposal inside information of the designer’s process of thought, namely; this beautifully cut and pierced piece of paper. Rietveld also experimented with plywood to achieve an immediate connection of an idea with the act of making. When only one piece of material is needed to make an idea come to life, and when that material is so flexible that handling it seems as easy as drawing on a paper with a pen, then there’s a new type of harmony introduced to the design process; that of an immediate, fast action resulting in a beautiful and easy product.

Rietveld and his contemporaries believed in a new world order, supported through their designs. In that world, one of the essential and necessary virtues would be the one of the minimum dwelling (das existenzminimum). For that to be achieved, all heavy labour would be replaced by machines, giving that way the man the freedom to use his leisure time in whatever way he thinks is best. In that world beauty and simplicity are the main gears of development. This is why in many Rietveld designs, in the model of the aluminiumstoel as well, we see a coexistance in harmony of these two and a lack of complexity which implies that the process of making of that object won’t result in valuing more than the object itself. For me, this is a reason why most of his chairs seem really uncomfortable; he wouldn’t want the owner of the chair to dwell in it for hours. There are examples of designs that embody perfectly Rietveld’s ideology, but were sadly never realised by him, like this chair of assembled plywood, designed in 1927.

 

plywood rietveld

 

What I first thought when I saw the paper model – and what everyone probably thinks – is the old Japanese art of origami, the art of folding paper. The idea of folding a piece of paper in a certain way so that it creates a clear shape of something seemed really appealing when applied to interior design. More importantly, it seemed perfect for what Rietveld was aiming for; an oblect made of one sheet of material and whose existance would be a clear statement for an easy, free living of minimum dwelling.
Origami art has influenced many design-based branches, such as architecture, fashion and interior design. Its basic principles have even recently been proved to be beneficial for science when it comes to manufacturing. Assembled Additive Manufacturing is a new process of fabricating developed by researchers, which has origami principles as its base, as it treats 3D objects as multiple layers of 2D sheets.
I was surprised, however, to see that most origami-influenced designs were really static and superficial; meaning that none of them took the idea one step further, none handled the art of origami as a general principle that could be the base of something bigger, or even as a statement. Designer Stefan Schöning came up with a design for a ‘folder chair’, where all that’s needed for its creation is a sheet of polypropelene.

 

folded chair

 

This example is really similar to what Rietveld was aspiring to do. Many similar designs have been realised, however it seems to me that they mainly aim at impressing the viewer, at making them admit that “that’s a witty design”, without committing a vision in it, nor giving the viewer and the world a tool for a better living, which will, in its turn, become a reason for contemplation.

 

 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TABLES BECOME CHAIRS


Monday, December 1, 2014

tafel-stoel

 

Wandering around in the Stedelijk museum my sight was caught by this ‘Tafel-stoel’ (table chair) by Richard Hutten (1990). It is part of the furniture collection. This collection will always have significance because furniture is part of the basics we use in life.
I was initially looking for an interesting chair, but this design didn’t look like a real chair. But then, what is a ‘real’ chair? To answer that question we’ll have to make up a definition of the chair in general. I would say that a chair is a design made for sitting with a backrest (otherwise it would be a stool). In this case there is a backrest present, but it doesn’t really function as such. I could imagine that leaning against it would make it fall. Therefore I would say that this chair is a case on the border of being a chair or a stool. Meanwhile it is also a table. Or actually it was. It looks like the former tabletop was cut out to become the sitting of the chair. Pondering about the traits of the chair I figured that this design item still has relevance for us in life and work nowadays. The question about the definition of the chair will always remain present and this chair is an example of it. Sometimes we can’t categorize items and that’s what makes these objects interesting to look at. They make us wonder and evaluate our attitudes towards the things we use in our daily life. And as Wittgenstein noted in his ‘Tractatus’ ; “we have to know about the connections between the objects we use to understand the world“.

They are always placed in a certain context. A table is not just a bare object, there are chairs around it, it is situated in a room, etc. With this philosophy in mind we might understand a little better why this chair is not easily understood. The connections are not clear.

 

 

The relevance of this chair will become more clear when we look at the reason why the Stedelijk came up with this collection to exhibit. The collection is considered on the basis of five themes, addressing aspects such as furniture in the collection which enjoys the status of international design icon and evolutions in particular kinds of furniture design (The furniture collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam – Dosi Delfini, L. A. [x]). The ‘Table Chair’ is an example of a conceptual design. Conceptual designs can’t be missed in an overview of furniture from (roughly) the last century, since that become a big focus in the world of art. Art can’t get more abstract than a white canvas. But ideas can go as far as you can imagine and beyond. And that’s where the conceptual art comes in. It’s about ideas, not about beauty and functionality alone. In Hutten’s work we can see the extreme clarity of form, which still leaves an unexpected amount of freedom in interpretation. “The austerity of his designs is the rare kind that makes you feel cheerful” (Richard Hutten – Ed van Hinte). As with the Table chair: it can be used in various ways, even in a way the designer could never have foreseen.

 

       

 

You could place the back- and armrest in another way then you would regularly expect. For example the other way around, so it becomes more like a table to lean on.

 

 

It is exactly what would give joy to Hutten and to me. I also like conceptual art a lot. But it can be a trap in which objects become too direct. Hutten knew about this pitfall and made sure that there was always enough space left for imagination in his designs. He said: ‘Traditionally design is about solving a problem. I don’t solve problems; I create possibilities’ (Richard Hutten: works in use – Brigitte Fitoussi). I share this opinion with him, because problem solving is one thing. Creating new things is something different. It is like grabbing something out of the air (which is quite hard). And it is like making a chair out of a table, which becomes a creature, challenging your common sense.

 

Form follows fact


Monday, December 1, 2014

The Cow chair was made in 1997 as a graduation project by the dutch designer Niels van Eijk. It is made from a single untreated cowhide which is stretched while soaking wet around a pre-consisting chair. It is left on the chair for a week until it has dried into a solid form. The idea was born when the designer looked down at his shoes and noticed how perfectly they were shaped around his feet. If this was possible, cowhide must have the quality to take on other forms, he thought, such as the shape of a chair. Van Eijk claims he is not a man of many words, he focuses on material and methods, which is clear in the case of the Cow chair. Despite that I think this chair is filled with relevant messages and comments on how we make and consume the objects surrounding us. It redefines the conventional use of familiar materials, It has strong relation to the discussion of using local recourses and it puts our attitude towards using animal products in context.

cow_chair_newmain
cow chair by Niels van Eijk [x]

The Cow chair does not try to conceal the single material used in its making. It almost looks like a newly skinned hide, having been laid on a chair at the tannery, waiting for further processing. Even the name of it has a very direct purpose, you are supposed to know that this chair was made of cowhide.
Normally, leather products have undergone such an intense working process that they do not remind us of they’re origin as much as the Cow chair does. As people of modern society, specially in the western world, have managed to distance ourselves from the source of the products we use that when we are exposed to the real thing a feeling of surprise or even repulsion arises. Sitting in a Chesterfield eating a fillet somehow feels more comfortable to most people than snacking on pigs ears and feeling the familiar texture of a cow behind your back.
Since 1997 several designers have experimented with the use of untreated leather or familiar animal body parts and taken the familiarity of they’re origin even further than Van Eijk. The artist Nandipha Mntambo uses the same method of stretching leather to form hides around her body as sculpture material. By leaving the hides unshaven she achieves feminine, yet animal like objects. She wants to address the things we demand of the female body, and how we want to change it, shape it, shave it bare.

1-Mirror-image cut-final-websize1
mirror image by Nandipha Mntambo [x] • precious skin by Viktoria Ledig [x]

Viktoria Ledig, a Swedish designer, used the tail, head and ears among other parts of the cow that otherwise would have been thrown away to make a line of products called precious skin. She tanned the body parts with a method that kept all the characteristics of the skin, so the final products had obvious wrinkles and blemishes along with a pale yellowish colour not so different from a humans skin. When describing the reason behind the project she asserts the following:
Leather is dead animal skin. This is perhaps the raw reason behind the human fascination with it. It is beautiful, precious and grotesque at the same time. We sometimes forget that touching leather is to handle a former living being’s hide.

The project and other similar ones for example Rachel Freire´s nipple dresses link have caused a strong negative reaction, a louder outrage than is heard every time a designer puts out a more conventional product made from animal products.
When Jan van Eijk later formed a studio with his wife and co-designer Van der Lubbe, they designed a product with a more deliberate intention of discussing use of animal products. They used mole rats that had been killed on golf courses in order to make the experience of golf playing more comfortable. The product was a pair of loafers made from the whole body of the rat, hair, tail, nose and feet still attached. I think this work is a great example of putting our claim on nature into context. Although the making of these loafers used material that otherwise would have gone to waste, wearing them is an uncanny reminder of the animals fate. In the same way removal of an unwelcome animal only for increasing human leisure seems unnecessary or even cruel but it can easily be hushed or forgotten.

moleshoesloka
molded shoes by van Eijk & van der Lubbe [x]

The method Van Eijk used to mould the leather is very inspiring. The finished object is not soft and smooth but hard solid enough to stand on its own as well as supporting  a human being. I think it invites us to discover endless ways of using hide to construct objects. It isn´t too different from the way many nations made their first books, or the way old drums and other instruments are constructed.

By stretching the hide with water there is no need to use toxic chemicals to preserve the material and prevent it from rotting. This is on the other hand unavoidable when tanning leather, even if it is done in the most eco-friendly way. So in fact using the hide as done with the Cow chair and the other things mentioned above makes far much more sense than using it to make soft articles such as shoes and clothing.

In the times where our consumption of material is unsustainable and our sources do not renew themselves fast enough it becomes a part of the designers job to go out of his way to source new solutions. Experiments with bioplastics, biomimicry and new ways of recycling are a important part of this process. But I think it is equally important to reinvestigate our old materials, our old methods, just as Jan van Eijk did while designing the Cow chair. How can we use them or parts of them to create things in a better way than we are doing now?

smart, wearable, unisex gadgets etc.


Monday, December 1, 2014

 

jacob jensen’s 1997 waterproof beowatch (produced by bang & olufsen) was designed as a personal, unisex timepiece that makes telling time convenient and accessible. additionally, it also functioned as a remote control that controlled the volume of later bang & olufsen music centres. this design prompted me to question its present-day relevance in the design exhibition at the stedilijk museum, amsterdam. over the last two decades the technology industry has undoubtedly grown and so has the way in which people engage with methods of measuring time. it is noticeable that less people wear wrist-watches everyday and the norm has adapted to using smartphones or other multi-functional devices to keep track of time.

this research will further discuss the design of the beowatch in relation to the myriad of social questions it raises such as today’s security in wearable, intelligent technology and the aesthetics of unisex design.

b&o-image1

few wearable objects are designed to be unisex, particularly jewellery (if we classify a wristwatch as jewellery). i am drawn to the statement this wristwatch is indirectly raising about society’s perceived aesthetics of gender. the design is created as ‘neutral’, an object that is seen through its own entity- regardless of preconceived ideas of masculine and feminine beauty. throughout history, wearable objects or fashion, has had a very divisive characteristic – creating standards and room for assumptions. this design foregoes these notions and is created as its own autonomous form.

balancing aesthetic and (multi-)functionality reiterates how the beowatch was very modern for its time;. jensen’s approach to design drew my attention as he states “…we expand our concept of…what a watch should look like. the sight of an object does not necessarily have to show its function…” (1994, jacob jensen design [paperback], paul schäfer). this relationship between functionality and aesthetic is a core issue that designers are faced with.

however, it is a challenge nowadays between technology and its external design. technology is becoming increasingly intelligent with wristbands/watches that gather data to measure heart rates, count steps, give directions, forecast weather, play music, interact with other devices, predict the position of the moon etc  and the visual appeal of wearing this technology. for example with the recent design release of apple’s iwatch and google’s glasses there is already considerable criticism on this ‘cyber-human’ image and artificial intelligence we are sometimes reluctantly and often unavoidably accepting.
 
 

b&o-image2

jensen redesigned the concept of a remote control in the beowatch by making it multi-functional (acting as a remote control and timepiece). similarly, designers today are changing conventional objects into ergonomic designs that fabricate, sync or react together with the human body. there is an evident focus from the technology industry to attach these gadgets and lumped plastic to people especially by getting them onto wrists. of course there are many benefits of having such tools; they are accessible, readily available and can make tasks faster. however, the fact that these devices become so quickly absorbed into the culture of everyday society is blurring the boundaries of our true basic needs.
 
 

they are also perhaps just purely adding insult to injury- for example do people need to know how little sleep they are getting? or if they have eaten too much on one day compared to the next? or if they have skipped a day of exercise? this data collection that these devices provide may give us information but it is still not enough, what is more important is the reasoning- why we slept/ate bad and missed exercise, for example. simply knowing these facts without reasoning is the added ‘insult’ to the injury/damage that has already been created. for instance if your watch tells you that you haven’t exercised enough, things that you probably know already, would you change your routine just because your watch is telling you? in most cases, not. there are versatile calculations everywhere, but the problem is what to do with this information and how to interpret it.

it is irrefutable that the pace of technological advancement is remarkable; but this also affords the risk that people will develop a better reading of their technology/ wristbands and lose their sensitivity and awareness in reading their own bodies.

b&o-image3

since the beowatch, wrist technology has advanced further than the individual, as over the past decade debates have risen over personal security and privacy. it is unknown to the individual how much is known about them through their digital dossier. we are uncertain about where our information is stored or if it is being used for analysis; examples we have witnessed recently include the NSA files, cyber-hacks with phone applications and celebrities, facebook scandals, wiki-leaks and much more. these personal items have the potential act as a sensor or tracker, they constantly collect data which are ‘invisibly’ fed to different networks. though this subject may seem far fetched from the design of the beowatch, the design is relevant as it marks part of the evolution of our technological reliance and dependence. it is uncertain where this line is between the personal object and a device that is actually just a form of data to a bigger establishment.

b&o-image4

the beowatch nowadays represents a certain phase in design (1993-1996) as well as the literal time. it represents the start of multi-functional, human-fitted technology. though now the object is more about its face than its function, being presented in a showcase at the stedelijk museum, it is still highly relevant and raises many direct and indirect issues. As the son of jacob jensen said in an interview: “a product which survives the test of time, even when it has been out distanced by technology, contains a concise idea carried out at the right time, and with an aim of thorough reworking” (timothy jensen in jacob jensen design, 1994, paul schäfer). though technology has definitely distanced since 1997, the design of the beowatch has survived by providing a mark for its time as well as offering insight into how we should speculate the future of cyber-human technology.

 

Stedelijk Design Show 2015 /Relevant Highlights


Monday, December 1, 2014

 

16 Rietveld Basic Year students visited the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum to examine the items in the permanent survey of the design collection.

Does the Stedelijk exhibit all these design items simply because they are in their depot.

Do the collection criteria still have any significance today.

Do these design items have any relevance for us, our life or work,now? Is it possible to make a clear statement about that.

If you click on the image a caption will appear –just as a in a real museum– presenting information and a personal reflection on why that item is considered relevant. You can review the whole exhibition in pop-up mode.

 

click on images to visit the exhibit

Gijs_Bakker_Waterman_2_Cropped

modelWieke_stool_SM

PatrickJouinWelcome-To-The-StoreBeowatch_SM2

tafel-stoelunfolded

DSC_0321 Schuitema_300

superstudio_gherpe_flippedVaclavCigler_headband

cow-chair_flipped Paulina_glass

 

minding material


Monday, December 1, 2014

The exhibition The Future of Fashion Is Now [museum Boymans van Beuningen until January 2015] showed us an inspiring assortment of progressive designers with their newest techniques.

One of the many designers who participated in this exhibition was Iris van Herpen, who graduated at the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Artez in Arnhem, the Netherlands. During her study she did an internship at Alexander McQueen in London and Claudy Jongstra in Amsterdam. Later, she began designing shoes for United Nude. An intriguing aspect is that she sees herself as a combination of a fashion designer and designer.
Iris van Herpen describes her own work as fashion where norms have no value and are being discarded. For her, fashion is a combination of craftsmanship and innovative techniques. It’s those techniques that really fascinate me in her work. Personally, I got really intrigued by the unique combination of materials and the technique with magnets she used to create the metal dress with, in collaboration with Jolan Van der Wiel.
On the other hand, the idea of using unusual materials such as wood and synthetics for 3D printing and laser cutting which eventually can be transformed into –wearable or non wearable– fashion, was a true eye opener for me.

 

Inspired by this project, I have pictured my own body in a plastic vacuum. Since this wasn’t possible with the vacuum machine that is available in school because of its size, I did thorough research on the internet in order to be able to build my own vacuum machine with the help of my father. Firstly, I made a mold out of plaster so that I could ‘pull’ vacuum from a see-through body. The heat got spread by a heater. In this way, only a small surface could be heated and I had no control of how the pvc plate would react to this. The consequence was that the pvc was about to burst or left air bubbles behind.

vacuum_1_900 vacuum_2_900

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In the beginning I was quite disappointed because it didn’t go the way I expected it to. On the other hand, these little imperfections in the body actually do give some added value to the work. Having control over  your material can be handy, but as soon as you lose this, interesting and unique things can happen. This reminded me of the magnets that have a will of their own in the project of Iris van Herpen en Jolan van der Wiel.

 

Her growing metal dress from immediately had an impact on me when I saw it from a small distance. The dress presented in the museum was one of her latest experiments. The 3D printed dress lay in a bath and grows with the help of fluoride liquid and magnets. To develop this dress she asked Jolan van der Wiel, a product designer, for help. Because of her urge to constantly apply new techniques, she frequently works together with other artists who specialize in the handling of these certain techniques. Jolan tries to forget the mundane things in his studio and to trust and make use of his imagination. Just like Iris van Herpen, he is fascinated by the working of different instruments that offer him a platform to his fantasy.

Iris van Herpen_ferroJurk Iris van herpen_FerroJurk 2

One of the instruments he uses are magnets. He creates a mixture of synthetic and metal that transforms by the help of magnets in order to create his own, unique chairs. The magnet grabbed Iris van Herpen’s attention, what resulted in a collaboration. Together, they developed a way to transform metal by using magnets so shoes and garments could be made from this. They used the same technique as Johan van der Wiel (graduated from Rietveld Academy’s

Designlab in 2011) did to design his chairs [x]. JvW_black-gravity-stool They made a basis mold, the form of the dress or shoe, and ornamented this with the synthetic magnet mixture. Subsequently, when the mold is solid, the magnets continue to do their job. They determine how the form eventually will look like. The attracted force designs the shape and after that the plastic hardens whereby the form stays permanent. In this way, thousands of divergent forms can originate and every product has a truly unique aspect.

magnetenjurk_950

They practiced this technique in real life situation in the Boijmans museum. Underneath the 3D printed dress, different magnets are hidden. Above the dress, the fluoride liquid drops down, falling on the dress. Through the magnets, the liquid sticks which makes the dress grow layer by layer. Therefore the name ‘growing dress’.

SONY DSC images-5

Furthermore, without the fluoride liquid, the dress is made out of synthetic that is 3D printed. This is a technique that we continually see coming back in her designs. A 3D printer is a device that creates arbitrary three-dimensional objects based on digital drawings. The material that is used builds up layer per layer, such as the Ferro fluid process. With this technique, Iris van Herpen is able to accomplish sculptures that are impossible to make by hand.

 

Next to the 3D printer she also makes use of a lasercut machine. This machine makes it possible to cut or engrave different patterns out of different materials. These patterns are being outlined on a computer program like Illustrator and Autocat. I recently used this technique as well. The only thing is that you need to have good knowledge of material. Is the material elastic, is it going to melt because of the heat?

iris-van-herpen-ice-dress-2

The laser cut literally cuts the pattern or the figures with a cropped laser. On the basis of the material you coordinate the data for the machine. How deep does the radius have to go? How fast? Is it supposed to go slower somewhere, for example in turns? I personally experienced this when doing material research for the making of my bodysuits. Some materials work a lot better than expected, others are being destroyed completely by the heat. Now I know that table foil is a perfect material to cut and ribbed cardboard is completely useless, while I expected the opposite.

 

bodysuits2_1100

 

Iris van Herpen and Rem D. Koolhaas, the face behind United Nude, both agree that the border between fashion and design is tremendously vague. Together, they try to make the impossible possible as not everything has to be easy. One of the first shoes they developed together is the ‘Iris van Herpen x United Nude 2.0’, a limited edition made out of patent leather. The big secret of the weirdly formed shoe is the balance between the heel that is curved to the front and the gravity. This shoe was a big challenge for the both of them, but also for the wearer. United Nude was founded with the idea of breaking the conventional rules of designing shoes. The rules don’t have to be broken, they just tried to simply ignore the rules. The higher the heel, the bigger the challenge.
Speaking of challenges, Iris doesn’t only pushes boundaries in the shoe world but also in the fashion world. Here, we also see that she applies techniques that are being used in the design world. She wants to experiment with material and shapes.
This is something I also try to do myself, processing unusual materials while keeping the pure visible. In photography, I try to apply as few Photoshop techniques as possible. In my opinion, Photoshop is only there to corrugate, like for example the contrast, a disrupting line or adapting a color. Thus, I made a triptych in which material is central. In front of the camera, someone held table foil, which actually did all the work for the photo. I could have Photoshopped a nice little effect, but for me it’s all about experimenting with different materials.

table-foil_1100

Iris van Herpen doesn’t like following the rules blindly and decently too, that’s why she doesn’t think wearability is important for fashion. Because of this reason, she is able to use materials like synthetic, metal and wood, that can be transformed and cut through the help of her favorite techniques, namely 3D printing and laser cutting.

/

 

Just like Iris, I like working with unusual materials, and that’s why her work has a definite impact on me. She inspired me to dare to use different materials and techniques and made me step out of my comfort zone. So the main difference between all the other shown designer pieces is that the Ferrofluiddress is not at all a static object but it is a growing piece of art. Iris isn’t only a traditional designer who only works in fashion, but an artist who converts her experimentation into wearable sculptures.

 

“I find beauty in the continual shaping of chaos, which clearly embodies the primordial power of nature’s performance”
–Iris van Herpen–

 

There is no future, we create the past.


Monday, December 1, 2014

3 During the visit at the Boijmans Van Beuningen’s, between all the dresses who can melt and the one who construct themselves there where an UFO. Three little canvas on the wall of a red room , hidden by a giant costume referencing to the solar system. These three pictures were the work of Phyllis Galembo, the sample of an all life research about the ritual costumes and masks in Africa and the African Diaspora. This work was specially interesting not by the subject or the strong visual effect who drop out of these images but because it’s presented in the exhibition -The future of fashion is now- How can we related the future of fashion and a research about traditional costumes in Africa, who exist from centuries? We can relate this question with the work of Pablo Picasso who has been influenced with the first exhibition of african’s sculptures and masks in France and revolution the art history, but now is it still accurate? What is interesting about these traditional costumes is that they construct a bridge through the past and the future, pieces of art who travel between the ages, but the future of our own civilization is to look back in the past of other’s one or to build our own, now.

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Phyllis Galembo is an American artist, fine art photographer. Her work is now related from more than twenty-five years at the African masquerade and ritual clothing. her first travel to africa was in Nigeria in 1985 since she travel through the west and central africa and regularly to Haiti. She document with simple and sober portraits these ritual clothing/art pieces without adding any meanings, keeping them in there own environment. This is a really important part of her work because these costumes are already meaningful in a lot of different themes (religious ceremonies, secret society, rituals, spiritual meanings…) An other big part of her work is to create a relation with the members of the different tribes and then be able to be in contact with these sacred objects. Here we find another interesting relation with the exhibition at the Boijmans Van Beuningen’s. The relation between the creation of a new area for the fashion designer’s and the work of Phyllis, who don’t create a new idea of fashion but put in the podium an ancestral art. The attention of the spectator is fixed on the clothing on the pictures relate to the meaning of the exhibition and not the pictures themselves who are the work of the artist. The projector should’t be pointed on the creator of these art pieces, or is it the collaboration with the photographer who make them important for this theme -The future of fashion is now-

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These pictures were presented in the section “The (re)definition of the human figure”. It was the topic who interested me the most in the exhibition and also the one that disappointed me the most. The theme is so large and for me unxploited at all. Only the work of Pyuupiru (Tokio) “Mercurius” and the “Akata Masquerade” from the american photographer was relevant, even if my only wants was to see in real the costumes on the pictures.
The african traditional masquerade costumes are for me a door for a mystical world and also a question about the definition of the human being. These costumes are more than a redefinition of the human figure but a way to escape totally this human aspect, physically and spiritually. And maybe lead us to this question, why i was interested by this part of the exhibition, What is it to be human, Just a concept, are we just animals or is it something spiritual that we should be aware of, or search for?

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Burial of his former carrier


Sunday, November 30, 2014

From my visit to the exhibition ‘The Future of Fashion is now’ at Boijmans the installation from the artist CC stays strongest in my mind. It was a large installation where the main part was a wooden structure that reached the ceiling. The structure formed few shelves that were full of multicolored sculptural mountains. For me it clearly stood out from the tailor dummies and hanging cloths that were around.  On one side of the structure were hanging four lighted-up squares that showed a man’s face, hands and feet.

 

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When I started to research CC as an artist I found out that he is formerly a hat designer. Known as Christophe Coppens or The Mad Hatter from the Country of Surreal Art and Comic Books, Belgium. CC is now living and working in Los Angeles.

 

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His career as a hat designer started when he was only 21 years old. In May 2012 he decided to make an end to that career, he closed his business and became a full time artist after 21 years of designing. He had been producing art work together with the designing but came to the conclusion that he could no longer combine the two. As he said:

“You can’t be a good artist with the mentality of a fashion designer. And I didn’t succeed at being a part-time artist.”[x]

It was surely a hard decision for him but an important one as he didn’t want to get lost in the design world where he had to distinguish between how things should be and how they have to be. Staying there he couldn’t be himself and use all the creativity he bears.

Coppens started making the mountain sculptures one week before closing his business. The first mountain developed during a lesson he took from the ceramic artist Mister Hugo Meert. Soon he made another one and then more and more. Perhaps the mountain shape was natural for him when working with the ceramic after all these years of hat designing. Considering the shape of hats may often be compered to mountains. As he moved to Los Angeles all the mountains around the city and the different shades of colours during different day light had an effect on him. He could surely relate that beauty to his work.

The first mountains were made out of ceramic. Later he started using his old clothes to make the mountains after noticing that all his clothes were linked to the person he was before becoming a full-time artist. The clothes were literally costumes for the outwards person he showed in interviews as a hat designer. It wasn’t Christophe Coppens himself. It didn’t fit him anymore he said, figuratively speaking. He also used some of his old furniture for the sculptural mountains. It became some kind of capsule of his past.

 

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His first exhibition after becoming ‘fulltime artist’ showed his mountain sculptures and was called Everything Is Local, Landscape part 1. It was exhibited in Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam [x]. It was an emotional landscape that kept a hold on to the past at the same time as it looked at the future with joy.

The exhibition immediately attracted a lot of attention, especially in his home country’s press. The Belgian magazine Standaard gave him three stars of five and published an article with the title: Hoedje af voor Coppens (Hats off for Coppens).

Later he made and showed the work called The Hills Are Alive: Landscape part 2. It was exhibited in Tokyo and was livelier than his first one. Full of mountains each with it’s own personality he related Landscape part 2 to the shops he used to have full of hats [x].

His installation for the exhibition ‘The Future of Fashion is now’ at Boijmans Museum in Rotterdam is a collection from both Landscape part 1 and Landscape part 2. There he puts together mountains from the two exhibitions making up the current exhibition that he calls Landscape part 3.

It’s interesting how the mountains are mounted on wooden stands that may be references to theater stages. I get the feeling that the stands help the mountains to reach higher and then not only physically but also mentally. It becomes more of a showpiece then something that could be practical, just as his hats.

 

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All these years of hat designing might have been necessary for the work CC is making today. Now as he is using materials from his past and the memory of who he was before, recycling it to make new art. These are memories that he is ready to put aside but at the same time still wants to enjoy and keep in reach. Probably the lighted-up squares from Landscape Part 3 demonstrate this closure or some kind of a burial of his former carrier. The location of the squares indicates that the man is being crucified and the man is believably his own former identity. It therefore seems that CC is finally ready to say goodbye to his former identity as a hat designer, or what? Will we maybe see his resurrection in his next exhibition?

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Tips from CC: Enjoy the present and wear sun screen [x],

 

The World in the Computer


Thursday, November 27, 2014

 

‘By presenting my designs not only physically but also digitally, new dimensions are created to strengthen the experience of fashion.’ (Jacob Kok)

 

The reason I chose Jacob Koks 3D work – evolution, (animated movie by himself and the software developer Autodesk), was because of the way it was presented  as a video made in a computer program. The use of media and what it allows you to do with gravity and form in this animated short film is for me very interesting and relevant for the art and design as it develops today.

I think the title of the exhibition “ The Future for Fashion is now” indicates that; we should use all our technologies and experiences we made so far, in the work of art and design today.  For me the technology that is created is not so far mentally reachable, as it may be for my grandmother, but still it has gone to a level of complexity that can be hard to follow for everybody.  I grew up in a generation where computers still was a “new” thing. but at the same time still very much existing. I grew up with laptops mobile phones , as an everyday- kind of object. It is therefore extremely relevant, to also include these kinds of objects in our art today.

In Jacob Koks – Evolution, he is working in this “second world“ where space limits and rules of gravity does not exist. He can play with shapes and fabric, as he likes. In the video shapes of clothing and body parts have it’s own rhythm, in the sense that it does not follow the natural movement pattern of what that kind of object, is supposed to do. The pictures is overlapping each other, making one shape or one figurative person floating over to another shape or person, creating a new walking, and idea about what clothing is and can be.
He started out with catwalk videos, mainly because he did not have the money to create collections and also to get them in production; he used his budget on the catwalk sample and didn’t have money to make more. He “crowed founded” his first collection, but he brought up a subject, for him and the rest of the fashion industry to work at.

That’s where he “reinvented himself as a designer” put in his own words, but he also questioned the very materialized fashion world, which I find very interesting. Making the fashion virtual he was not only manipulating with body shapes and fabric, but also he dematerializing clothing in fashion, by doing so. He was able to, in a very experimenting way, to expand himself as a designer in a digitally media, but also making himself able to save some money to make his art/fashion real.

A lot of catwalk clothings is only made for inspiration, which gives the designer a lot of money to spend, without selling /earning anything. I think in the use of digitally media in the fashion industry like Jacob Kok does it, is a big inspiration for other upcoming artist in this field.

Later on he cooperated with the Sims 3 Game, which also gives a whole other perspective to his work.

The Sims game is a virtual game where you create a world of your own. You simply make the figures by selecting their looks, from everything to eye colour, hairstyle, clothing, to personality interest and goals in life.

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When you made your characters, you can buy a property and then you start building. There are limits for your house building, as it is in real life, so you have to be patient.  Your characters have to go to work to earn money; they have to be stimulated mentally with having friends, hobbies love life and carrier.

You have to fulfill these desires to collect points. In this way the game can go on and on. It does not end. This game has sold over ten million copies worldwide since 2009 release, making it one of the best selling games of all time.

I believe the game is so popular because it works with the simplicity of life, it is like a recipe for how a “normal” life can look like, and you are the controller. In a world where young people are so confused about all the choices they have to make. The Sims game actually makes the player successful, almost no matter what, and if not, just start over.

It’s a game for both girls and boys maybe even some adults, because it is reflecting our own way of living. Maybe even questioning, our way of living.

When Jacob Kok is using these references in his work,[x] it could associate with a feeling, for those who knows the game, that their have control over their looks and behaving and in the end, control over their life. The game is creating a feeling of being more successful as a person, in a world that can be very confusing to live in.

Of course other artist/designers has explored this area of what the digitally media can give us.

Wade Guyton is a post conceptual American artist [x] who makes digital paintings on canvas using scanners and digital technology, but there is also artist who specialize in digitally artworks, that also plays with this virtual external world which computer games is presenting.

David O’Reilly is an artist working in the field of 3D animation movies, he is known for the distinctive absurdity of his work. In his work “External world” He kind of gives an example of how the absurd the world is. The theme of the whole film could be how people are scared of things that are new and maybe more specific about how things are rejected, if others do not understand it. The film is criticizing a lot of things, also the fact that animation movie is allowed to present violence  without being taken serious.

The relation between the two artist, is both the media but also how they reach their audience, by creating a space with no rules, a space that have no end and a place where we can create and do whatever we want.

O’Reilly is seen as one of the leading 3D animation artist, which has like Jacob Kok, is dealing with the human role in the world, by using 3D animation.

Jacob Kok works both inside and outside the media, by using The Sims, and catwalk animation movies as (Paradise) he is not only interested in fashion, but also have a background an interest in animation. His start point was not to only work in one media he once thought he would make music videos, because he felt that he in his work was embracing more visuals and music together, than separate (you can easily see this affection in his work; official trailer for his spring/summer collection) He is uniting several of his own interests in fashion/animation/ music, to make a new perspective to fashion and his artworks.

O’Reilly is working as an artist in digital form, Jacob Kok works with fashion and design and needs real time to exist, were O’Reilly only works in the virtual world. He doesn’t claim his works, but put them on the Internet for everybody to enjoy. Which I think also is an interesting point. Jacob Kok is also using this method to expand his works, but not as absolute and clear as O’reilly does it.

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Something that I also find really interesting, is when artist use more than one skill, the combination of interest and competence is inspirational, personal and very true as an artist.  I think both of these artists are connecting very convincing and beautifully, a personal and new, perspective in the fields of art/fashion/animation.

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My Sofa Journey


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

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What happens if you could take a nap when and wherever you want? Forrest Jessee designed the sleep suit(1), that makes it possible to sleep in your own cocoon, at work, school or at the streets. I wanted to challenge the idea of Jessee. So I went to the streets to experience it, not with clothing… but with a simple sofa.

 

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The sleep suit of Jessee immediately got my attention when I visited the exhibition “The future of fashion is now”. The shape in combination with the material its made of, creates an architectural form. It looks as a personal space, because of the thickness of the primary material, EVA foam, which is also used for padding and shock absorption in sports equipment. Usual fashion, in my opinion, is meant as a kind of jewelry for the body. Fashion, in common, plays with the form of the body, and is meant to be decoration. In this design the form of the body is almost not visual anymore. It adds something to the body, where it almost becomes a second body part. That in combination, with the daily environment, creates very interesting images (2,3).

 

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The part where this piece is playing with his environment is the part that I wanted to experience by myself. I just moved to my new home in the centre of Amsterdam, as I found my new sofa in the streets of Amsterdam South. So I walked 5,2 km to my home with it. I had to take a lot of breaks, and interesting things happened that for me related to the ‘Sleep Suite’ of Jessee.

What I wanted to experience, is the interaction with me laying/relaxing/sitting/jumping at my sofa and the busy city life. A lot things happened on my way so…

I want you to share my ‘Sofa Journey’.

 

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After 4,5 hours

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The experiences I’ve had this journey, I would never had without the sofa. The sofa became a medium to communicate with buildings, animals, trams and people. In the pictures I tried to play with the environment. For example, I saw a lot of buildings which had the same stripes above their windows as the stripes from the couch. I could involve in that way the couch with his surrounding(11,12). Also the stripes of the zebra path were interesting to combine with the sofa(14). The garbage that I found at the streets I also used to create a fake ‘living room atmosphere’, with the television, couch and ventilator(13).

Also the opposite situations were very interesting. Where the sofa was not palpitating the surrounding. A good example of it, is the picture where people looking strange at me sitting at my couch.(16) In the rest of the pictures there is also a lot of ‘miscommunication’ between me, relaxing at my sofa and the busy background. I enjoyed the journey a lot with me and my sofa, which is now settled in my appartement. It will always remember me of this day.

Are you the clothes you wear?


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Every morning when I dress for school, I’m in doubt. I put something on and it’s again the same. I have a couple of outfits I wear a lot and that make me feel safe. Though, everytime I doubt whether it’s good enough. I’m in a school that calls itself an art school and it doesn’t feel like I’m a typical person that belongs in an art school, even though I don’t know if that kind of a person exists. Because of that I feel like I have to proof myself, as if I have to pretend that I’m someone else, wearing clothes that suit art school, but that suit don’t me. I feel too normal, too average, too ‘different’. Too boring. Even when the clothes I wear I really like and I feel comfortable in.

The strange thing is: there isn’t something like a dresscode for an art academy. Everyone wears what they like or what makes them feel good. So no one cares what you’re wearing. Although it feels like everyone has their own unique style, different from everyone, and maybe that could be the dresscode. Being as unique as possible. And if you see it like this, maybe I do fit in.

For me this proves that your identity is for a big part in the hands of the clothes you wear, prejudices exist and people pretend that they know who you are. You can deny that it is like this, and I’m sure that came across your mind, but I think everyone realizes that this is true. Even when you don’t really care about fashion or clothing, it says something about who you are, about your identity. It expresses your culture or subculture. The group you belong to. Fashion is the easiest way to express, to make a statement. And we do, all of us.

 

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Beyond the Body, a perception of appearance and identity : video and publication 2012

Imme van der Haak is an artist who takes identity as an starting point. She says that fashion is, for her, the way to form your identity, to show yourself. But also and mostly to try and be someone else and experience how that is, to step in someones skin and mind. In that way you can undergo an metamorphosis and your clothes can function as an cocoon where in you can undergo that metamorphosis. Also without clothes there is an identity, in scars, hair, birthmarks and surgical adjustments. Our body is an product of nature and a product of science. There are tons of possibilities to give our body a certain form. In the end she says that even without clothes, fashion influences our body. This can come out in tattoos, piercings, the way we cut our hair, but also in the edit on photographs in fashion.

 

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Configurations : Jewelry 2010

She makes works about changing the form of the body. This is shown the best in her work Elastic Mind, where she deforms her face and body with several tools, like elastics, balloons, tights, hairpins and treads. By this she does research to the form of the body, and tries to find new forms, that are not so normal but can be beautiful in a way. It was a research for a jewelry line she made, with really innovative and new jewelry. Also in her video work “Beyond the Body” shown in the exhibition The Future of Fashion is Now, a really beautiful and emotional video is shown, that makes us think about our own identity and how we express that. In the video two people are shown, covered by a transparent piece of fabric with the body of someone else printed on it, and by that they are given a second identity. The shape of the body changes because of the fabric and the picture, which is interesting and typical for Imme, like I said.

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Elastic Mind : publication 2010

 

Another artist that works with deformation of the body as a research for defining identity is Jeanne Dunning. She did kind of similar things, like putting balloons under clothing and creating extra bodyparts, which you can compare to Imme’s work in the video, because there you see two people at a time and by that sometimes there are more arms or legs. She creates surrealistic images as a result, not as a research like Imme does.

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Jeanne Dunning : in bed 2004

I think it’s an interesting subject to think about how easily you can change the way you look and by that your identity. You will be the same person from the inside, but a lot changes by how other people see you or how your look makes you feel. It’s something we are busy with everyday.
 

 

Why do we wear clothes


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Exhibition “The Future of Fashion is Now” gave me a chance to consider about clothes, itself. Especially, the work called “Clear” by Mary Ping was quite impressive for me. Even though there were so many works that were using transparent materials on their works, Mary Ping’s piece was special for me. Because I think that the others focused on showing decay and disappearing phenomenon, but Mary Ping’s work literally shows clear, and perfectly- transparent clothes and accessories.

The visual image of her piece reminds me of the classic tale, ”The Emperor’s New Clothes” written by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson. As you already know, the story is about an emperor who believes weaver’s lie that if clothes are made of some materials have a special effect, only those who are good at their job or are intelligent would be able see it. But at the end of story, children shouted the truth in front of emperor that he did not wear clothes. On the other hands, it also depicts the fact everyone was pretending like they could see the clothes and they even praised king’s naked body to king’s

wonderful clothes. the_emperors_new_clothes

From this tale, I found some fundamental features and reasons of clothes. For example, what is beautiful clothes( this question can be extended by, what is beauty), why do we have to wear clothes every single day, and why do we want to wear clothes. What is the function of clothes… and so on.

First of all, back to the original subject “clear”, Mary Ping says “Beauty reduced to the form, executed in transparent -and thus honest- material.”  I supposed there are so many kind of beauties in the worlds as much as there are so many people in existance. Also Beauty reflects so many components at the same time. Some of people thoughts beauty is one of the way to show their strong political and financial power to the others through colourful clothes, accessories, expensive decoration art works etc. Specifically the form of clothes were getting bigger, heavier and even really uncomfortable to show their power visually at that time and they thought that was most perfect clothes for them. In the same vein, the emperor in Anderson’s story wanted new clothes to exaggerate his power. Therefore sometimes i felt clothes seemed like a decoration paper to conceal and exaggerate myself. So Mary Ping’s piece makes me imagine that if everyone wear on this transparent clothes, they can be more honest than now. Because it can break the illusion by showing everything – natural body shape- without decoration.

Also It makes me feel like it has really natural, honest and variable form. Because this piece’s actual form is up to customer body. So it’s quite interesting process to observe changing of it’s form by different models.  I mean if someone who has really big belly wears it, the shape of  clothe looks like D-shaped clothes. Or if someone who is really thin wears that clothes, it looks like wearing space suit, because of empty space inside of the clothes. One more thing is , One of the other features of clothes reflects an identity. you can show your individual identity on your clothes. Clothes is really important way to show your identity and you can distinguish yourself from others by your unique clothes. And which components that i found interesting is we can see your own unique identity when you are wearing “Clear”piece.

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We usually tend to regard to show naked body as taboo and because of that reason, we need clothes to protect our body from other people’s attention. Ironically Mary Ping’s piece has totally opposite function compared to traditional clothes. However, I think its function is quite nice. Because as it looks like, it’s almost impossible to hide or exaggerate something in front of so many eyes. Because you always should be conscious of it.

Sensors and supervision


Wednesday, November 26, 2014


The exhibition The Future of Fashion Is Now at the museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam features established and upcoming designers questioning and challenging the premises of contemporary fashion. One of the contributing designers is the canadian designer Ying Gao, who in her work Incertitudes used speech- and motion-activated sensors hidden within two white dresses covered with thousands of small needles, reminiscent of porcupine coats. The gestures and noises of a viewer or passerby forces the attached pins to move, transforming the garment as well as the contours of its wearer. In her description of the piece, Gao refers to the constant stress and uncertainty of modern day individuals, always flexible and ready to adapt to new situations.
Gao was participating in the section of the exhibition called Materiality and Experience, which makes perfect sense in consideration of her other works, also making use of innovative technological solutions. Besides Incertitudes, she has also investigated light-reactive electronic components, by creating coats that move depending on the intensity of a light source, such as a flashlight. Involving interactive techniques in fashion could bring a sense of dynamism to the concept of clothing. When permitting participation/interaction with surroundings and spectators, the pieces rapidly distinguish themselves from any garment that is delivered already “done”. Bypassing flatness and immobility, they become equipped with a quality of sensibility and refinement.

 

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• Flexible Pressure Sensors • Incertitudes (close-up) by Ying Gao • Silver nano wire sensors • (Now)here (Now)here (close-up) by Ying Gao • Solar Powered Jacket by Tommy Hilfiger

 

Combining aesthetics with the latest technological developments is not always an uncomplicated process. Successful and sophisticated design of hi-tech clothing is still limited to a small number of fortunate tries. We slowly move away from the “ugliness” that usually haunt technical innovations in their early years. The industry could be seen as going through a process of normalization, where the feeling of the relatively unnecessary “tech gadget” is left behind.Designers experimenting with the new possibilities are however operating in an unexplored grey area somewhere between usefulness, beauty and supervision. When letting technology become autonomous and enabling it to take its own decisions, the designer releases control over the outcome. Reducing his or her position by introducing chance and fate will inevitably lead to new opportunities and new situations.
Although the integration of data-collecting sensors in fabric has a natural relevance for the innovative clothing designers, the use of such equipment will most likely not be restricted to the fashion industry only. This could mean infinite possibilities – the risk of abuse on civil liberties should be taken into consideration. What if the occurrence of intelligent fabrics was as widespread (but also overlooked) as surveillance cameras in public spaces? If biometric textile was put on the seats of public transport? Or misused, as if put on animals or plants? How would our experience of daily life change if speech- and motion reacting sensors were installed in supermarkets, shopping centers, cafés? If objects/garments changed with the impact of our mere presence?

 

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 2.
• Infrared motion sensor burglar alarm • Digital persona Fingerprint reader • AR. 2.0 Parrot Model drone • System Azure Security Ornamentation by Jill Magid • Facial Weaponization Suit by Zach Blas

 

It is nowadays clear that smart wristbands (as well as watches, jewelry and other attachable items) tracking, measuring and analyzing the bearers every movement is a constantly growing industry. The technique of smart fabrics and integrated sensors in clothing is evolving equally rapid, thereby soon making the act of strapping on an external device unnecessary. By inserting sensors capable of tracking very precise information already in the fabrics, data on motion, size, location, force, weight or shape could easily be collected.
Technological monitoring of human movement is however nothing new. The first closed-circuit TV cameras (CCTV) came into use already in 1942 during the observation of a rocket launch in Peenemünde, Germany. Surveillance camera systems performing continuous video recording has been a common practice almost ever since. Among more recent developments are biometric recognition (face, fingerprints etc), aerial surveillance (helicopters, drones etc.) and naturally everything related to internet and social media. Could the integration of intelligent fabrics be a suitable addition to this process?

 

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3.
• Google Glasses • Ritot smart wristband • Flexible Skin Temperature Sensor • Necklace Projector • Smartphone

 

New wearable technology are in some aspects already being used as a means of self-control and self-reflection, as a way of eliminating chance and the unforeseen at any cost. The behavior could be linked to the ongoing obsession with observing and measuring the own body. Health, sport and the perfecting of ones physical appearance has gotten a new trendy twist with smart apparel, fitting quite well into the all-encompassing life project certain enthusiastic users are living by. Are we moving from an attitude of authoritarian respect from earlier times and into a slavery of self discipline and personal surveillance? From the all-seeing, omnipresent monitor to the individual supervising itself?
The existence of hidden, interactive sensors and reactive fabrics is undeniably a relevant topic – the potential is striking. Anyone curious in new means of communication could possibly avoid the advancement of smart textile in modern daily life, reaching us all within a very near future.

On a personal level, I ask myself if there could be some sort of spirituality to be found in this technology of supervision? Is there an empty space to be filled in secular societies, leading up to this voluntary self-surveillance through different types of apparel and other devices? The subject is fascinating both from an artistic point of view as well as a philosophical/ethical one. 

 

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4.

• Conan O'Brien tries Dream Weaver (video) • Chakra Balancing application • Deepak Chopras Dream Weaver • iPhone surveillance

 

How do we as individuals deal with the concept of spirituality, truth and privacy in the age of technology? The adaption to new conditions is unavoidable, but becomes more and more a matter of privileges.
The revelations on to what extent state supervision is currently practiced (Edward Snowden, NSA, Wikileaks) chocked a whole world and deepened the conflict with the established, monotheistic religions believing in the One and only God to monitor and judge all human action. Surveillance relates to different aspects of privacy, such as privacy of property, of space, of personality and of thought. Worthy of note is that not everyone has the economical means to question authoritarian demands on personal information, with the consequence of privacy possibly turning into a valuable property that only a select few can access.
New forms of spiritual practice and/or self-monitoring take shape with the aid of technological devices. Smartphone applications connected to health, higher power, meditation, zen etc. are immensely popular, offering a re-charging of the soul similar to the charging of batteries. When spiritual leaders such as Deepak Chopra releases biosensorical glasses promising relaxation and inner peace the merging of spirituality and technology is indisputably a fact. Are they all yet another expression of an egocentric, self-obsessed Western society or a useful tool to actually reconnect lost searchers of truth?
In any case, a space has opened up for an intimate, personal form of spirituality disconnected from the dogmas of organized religions whilst also distancing itself from sovereign state control. The idea of scientific knowledge as the superior way of accessing truth is once again questioned – and is it necessarily in opposition to all spiritual methods? To conclude: it is visible how technology/the visible and spirituality/the invisible intertwine and affect each other more and more in modern societies. This provides interesting opportunities for artists to question and investigate further, and I am certain that projects such as Ying Gaos is only a preview of what the future will hold.  

 

Red Carpet Culture


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

According to Oxford Dictionary, red carpet is ‘A long, narrow red carpet laid on the ground for a distinguished visitor to walk along when arriving.’ This dictionary also proposes one idiom related to the red carpet – red carpet treatment. This idiom is used ‘in reference to privileged treatment of a distinguished visitor.’ Viktor&Rolf’s Autumn/Winter 2014 collection meet that definition au pied de la lettre. This Amsterdam based duo literally made the dresses from the red carpet.

 

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Viktor&Rolf took part in The Future of Fashion is Now exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam with two of their collections; Autumn/Winter 2013 aka Zen Garden collection [x] and Autumn/Winter 2014 aka collection executed entirely in red carpet. Although the Zen Garden one was broadly exhibited, the second collection made a bigger impression on me. Two white figurines with two dresses and two pair of shoes, all made from red carpet – that was it, quite decent display but perfectly contrasting to all glamorous world of red carpet. There was something magical about the material. Or maybe is it just something in human nature that we are subconsciously attracted by red carpet?

 

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The designers found in a carpet manufacturer Desso a great partner for this collection. This Dutch company produced carpet without the usual rubber backing and also carpet with animal skin motifs, according to their words ‘shaved and laboriously hand-appliquéd carpet, which takes up to 300 hours per look to complete.’ The clothes were wrapped around body and a little bit resembled bath towels from afar. Dresses were accompanied by jewels and shoes made in the same style.

 

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Collection was initially presented in Paris, obviously on the red carpet, followed by a rhythmic clapping song [Video]. This presentation is worth watching. Viktor&Rolf themselves describe this collection as ‘a meditation on a current obsession.’ Are we actually a society obsessed by a red carpet? Are we a red carpet culture?

I have never realised that such thing as a red carpet can have a rich history. It was first mentioned in the play called Agamemnon, written by Aeschylus in 458 BC. In this play, the main character returns home from Troy and is greeted by his wife who offers him a red path to walk upon. However, Agamemnon, knowing that only gods walk on such luxury refuses and says: ‘I am a mortal, a man; I cannot trample upon these tinted splendors without fear thrown in my path.’

People are no more afraid of walking on the red carpet. First of all, there were popes and heads of states. Red carpet marked the route they were taking on ceremonials and special occasions. Red carpet is now mainly associated and broadly used by celebrities and all VIPs glamour world. For those who are interested, exhausting and detailed history of red carpet is here. Bearing in mind Agamemnon’s story and the fact that red carpet is only for gods, I realised that maybe the basis is still the same but we changed our faith.

We can also consider the red carpet as the first marketing tool in the history of fashion. In the early decades of the 20th century there were the celebrities (actors and actresses, singers, dancers as well as members of noble families) who carried fashion impulses. Nowadays designers like to dress celebrities for red carpet events because their photos literally see the whole world. In this context we can understand Viktor&Rolf’s collection as a revolt against this trend.

Nowadays, the actual event may seem overshadowed by the red carpet. Just look at this video of Oscar preparation – workers rolling out the red carpet and a huge amount of photographers and media in place to depict that very moment.

 

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It might be as well really stressful moment for celebrities in terms of perfectionism. All the world is watching every detail, manicure, hair, make-up, dresses, jewellery, manner of walking, everything. In the event of Emmy’s 2014, E magazine also prepared so called ‘clutch cam’ and ‘mani cam’ so the viewer could see every detail even closer. Walking the red carpet can actually be a nightmare. Celebrities might not eat for days or even weeks before the event. You can look at how many results you find when searching on google for ‘how to be red carpet ready’: tips on diets, workouts, pills and many many more.

We developed some kind of camouflage pattern for being invisible in the nature. Can we also be invisible on the red carpet? Viktor&Rolf dresses can represent one way of reaching invisibility but I searched for more examples where celebrities tried to disappear.

 

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I think that Viktor&Rolf caught really well this current obsession. Suzy Menkes, Vogue fashion journalist, expressed it in a good way: ‘two brilliant minds catching a sociological thread.’ [x] I can only agree with her words. Red carpet represents a new value of our lives. If we think about the idiom ‘red carpet treatment’ I have one suggestion for future. Maybe we will have real red carpet treatments. Covering our body with red carpet for certain amount of time will cure illness and give back lost self-confidence.

 


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