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Proving Prouvé


Friday, March 27, 2015

Starting our trip through the endless material on chairs and same amount of possibilities to wright a research about, we travelled to remoted cities to attend group chair exhibitions. During this whole complicated ritual of coming up with a specific chair, I was always thinking of the simplest one. One that I could really describe because it would be just basic. And what is about basic that fascinates me is that everyone can find themselves on it. It might not be the most comfortable chair but for sure it can be one to spend some study hour on.
During these basic thoughts on basic chairs, my mind would travel to the chairs that I had been sitting on for 12 continuous years in my life, since I started primary school and finished high school.
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It should probably be the chair I have sit on the most. I have spend endless amount of time getting bored on this chair, getting back pain on this chair and always trying to switch between positions so that to find the right place for my feet. This would be in school, when I would bend my knees, place me legs under my butt so that I have a pillow on the basis of the chair with my feet coming out of the empty space, right under the piece of plywood supporting my back. Teachers wouldn’t allow non upright positions.
I remember I was then complaining to them on why are they using a comfortable chair with foam pillows for their desks in class, while us, a mass production of  students in a mass production education were sitting on mass production chairs.
This would be four steel legs and two molded pieces of wood. Thin plywood.

On the group chair exhibition I found myself identifying with Jean Prouvé’s Standard Chair produced during the 1930’s-1950’s since it looked very similar to the school chair I was recalling at the moment.
jean prouve

Going through the background of Jean Prouvé and his architectural achievements I got informed on his fascination with mass production of machine-made furniture and his constant adaptation to the problems of his times through working in a collective structure with fellow architects such as Le Corbusier. Apparently, through this collective way of working, furniture for collective use were produced. Educational furniture was some of them.
This is when I realized that my visual connection of his chair to the school chair was not random.  The name of it gives it away: “Standard Chair”.
Unfortunatelly I never got to sit on one of the Standard Chairs but I am convinced that it feels more or less the same.

Both chairs I am comparing take the stress on the back legs where they bear the weight of the user’s upper body. Prouvé incorporated this simple insight in his design for the Standard Chair: while steel tubing suffices for the front legs, since they are subject to less stress, the back legs are made of voluminous hollow sections that transfer the primary weight to the floor.

Feels like it is a chair to keep you aware and well-postured. I remember sitting on ugly yellow cubular steel  legs when new, clean and polished chairs arrived having tubular steel legs. A small detail I remember since somehow I prefer the cubular ones.
I can also recall the high pitch sound of these tubular steel legs when you would boringly move the chair in the classroom by scrubing it on the floor. It sounded like it is going to collapse, like all the rust-proof elements would finally get unproofed. But they didn’t.
They survived through many years, through many students sitting awkwardly on them, vandalizing them, chiping off the layers of the plywood one by one on your front classmates’ chair, wrighting nonsense with blanco pen in the back of it or making graffiti on it.
There was also this plastic black cap used to  block the empty space of the tubular steel at the edge of it. This cap that you could passiently remove during the boredom of the class, revealing the empty space, where you could dispose your chewing gum if the teacher would see you, where you could loose your pen or hide a cheating note.

I am mostly fascinated with Prouvé’s chair because it somehow summarizes all these memories in an official and prototype way. All these years of experiencing the school chair were brought to the foreground at my first encounter with Prouvé’s chairs, proving to me how I was sitting on it without even realizing it is him behind it.
It seems like his industrialized Standard Chair was indeed used in schools at that time and that it did inspire companies to copy it and send them to schools all over Europe by stalking them on each other just like a good mass production product would do.
A-001

La chaise vide – A research about a chair and design and art


Friday, March 27, 2015

lachaisechair

   It seems to be safe for me to say that if you don’t know Charles and Ray Eames you are not really a cultivated person. The super design couple have been a major influence in the design and the art world in general making timeless designs as well as conceptual art works. In this research I wanted to analyze one of my favorite chair who was designed by the Eames and try to get to a conclusion on why I like it as much as I say I do or if I have just chosen an object that I call my favorite to make me sound more cultivated. This is it.

   To begin with I want to make a little historical introduction to this chair with a name of double entendre. La Chaise was originally designed in the year 1948 by the couple Charles and Ray Eames for a competition held by The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The competition was entitled “Low-Cost Furniture Design” and was really connected with the atmosphere of the United States at post World War Two times where a lot of immigrants were importing to the States and furniture had become a high priced luxury. So in a way to bring new horizons to inhabitants and introduce a new way of living the MoMA made the competition and invited world wide known designers to participate. The Eames got second place but for a different chair called the “DAX” chair. Although the La Chaise chair didn’t win any of the awards at the competition it got some attention for elegant design in the free form. The Eames were really interested in innovative designs and the plastic substance in general. They did a lot of experimenting with the shape of the new content in different but clever forms. Their rounded lines were easily transformed from the sketchbooks in to development and production. Ironically the chair was too expensive in production at the time so the chair was not manufactured again until the Swiss furniture company Vitra took over the production in the year 1998 with increasing interest from the public . The La Chaise chair is “Two bonded fiberglass shells, chromed rod base  with natural oak cruciform foot”.

The 'La Chaise' chair by Charles and Ray Eames

The ‘La Chaise’ chair by Charles and Ray Eames

 

   The name of the chair has like I said before a double entendre. In the French language the word la chaise means simply the chair, given that the La Chaise is a chair the first meaning speaks for itself but the other meaning connects with the artist Gaston Lachaise. In the year 1927 Gaston Lachaise made a sculpture by the name of Floating Figure which shows a figure which appears to be floating on water. It is a female figure with arms wide in a somehow a formal but welcoming posture looking upwards, perhaps to the future while her feet are laying horizontal but crossed as if she would be sitting in a sofa.

'Floating Figure' by Gaston Lachaise

‘Floating Figure’ by Gaston Lachaise

 

   When looking closely at the chair by the Eames and the sculpture by Lachaise. You can well see that the sculpture was an inspiration to the chair which right now in the year 2015 is still a great object both as a designed object and as an eye pleasing artwork in itself.

   Two years ago I was studying at a technical school in Reykjavik where I took a course called Design history and I remember seeing a picture of the ‘La Chaise’ next to the ‘Floating Figure’. At that moment which when I think of it now was perhaps kind of stupid of me not to have thought of before being 21 years old I for the first time saw how thin the line is between art and design. It really crossed me as a weird experience because for me the chair itself is as much of an artwork as the original sculpture by LaChaise only with more functions as it is supposed to be comfortable to sit in although I haven’t tried it myself.

The mysterious Endless chair


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Endless_Chair_Gradient_Blue_1024x1024

What a great name for a chair, Dirk van der Kooij came up with the name the Endless Chair for his beautiful chair. When you look at it, it really is endless, not only the physical object is made out of One plastic string, but also the thoughts that you can create behind this chair are endless. When you look at it it immediately brings up the question: “How is this made?”

My eyes were caught by this chair in a chair exhibition, between all the other chairs, old and new ones, weird and boring ones this one stood out for me, its seemed almost from another planet and inhuman because of the texture, the shape and the color. The design is clean and very refreshing to the eye.

The color made me think of the sky, clouds passing by, a continuation of changing colors and shaded. I could see myself sitting in this chair and being on my own little cloud. The texture of the material was so soft but also so strong at the same time. The perfect combination for a chair. The most important thing is to be comfortable but it is also necessary that it gives you strong support.

Daydreaming of myself in this chair I started wondering how this chair was made. Was it made by hand or by mass production I couldn’t figure it out by just looking at it, When I saw the little sign next to the chair, it surprised me how this chair was made and from what materials. It looked so new and almost chemical. The sign explained to me that  it wasn’t made in mass production but also not by hand. There was an other technique that I totally forgot about.

This chair was made by an old robot arm from china, the designer of this chair created his own mega 3D printer. This chair is made piece by piece. No mass production but just one at the time.This was not all that the little sign explained, not only the chair is 3D printed out of normal new plastic but its printed out of recycled material. All the chairs are made from old refrigerators.

[click here to watch how the chair is made]

I’m always very interested in materials that you can re-use, this chair is the perfect example for furniture that is made out of recycled material, in this case you can almost see it as furniture that is made out of old furniture. Both very useful products that we are all are very used to. A house without chairs or a refrigerator would be a very uncomfortable place to live in. Both of these objects are not originally made to look good, but to make our daily life a bit easier.

Like I said earlier this particular chair is made out of something already used or you could also see the material as something old. There is really fine line between old and new, and not only between old and new but also between real and unreal. This is maybe what makes this chair very interesting and mysterious. You can’t really see the story behind this chair when you look at it. It needs research to be able to get to know this chair.

But still there are a few questions :Is it really made out of old refrigerators? There are no signs of that? Where does the material come from and what did it look like?

I guess we will never really know the answers to these questions, and is it really that important to know?. If we just have this chair at our dinner table do we really care where it comes from or hows its made?. It still is just a chair.

 

We all see and by seeing know that this is chair, you can sit on it and you can even just easily buy it online. But if we compare this chair to the general meaning of what a chair is, this chair doesn’t tick all the boxes. For example Wikipedia describes a chair as ”Chairs are most often supported by four legs and have a back”. With this chair that definitely not the case. Does this chair even have legs? in my point of view: no not really, but it does have a back. But what would happen if you took away the back? Would you still recognize this chair as a chair or would it become more of a sculpture?

Lets see what happens:

Endless_Chair_Gradient_Blue_1024x1024kopie

 

What I see happening now is that this chair turns into something abstract, something completely unrecognizable. It does still has some of the features like the seating and the four points that are touching the ground, but also as a sculpture this chair would’t be misplaced in a art space.

The Endless chair by Dirk van der Kooij has a sort of beauty about it that is hard to define. After looking at this chair a million times and being so inspired by it, I still can’t tell what so extremely appealing about this chair. It might just be the endless mystery.

 

Waterman


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Waterman

Sportsfigures_240_WatermanBrooch

I have chosen the Waterman Brooch from the serie, combining a postcard of a Bruce Weber image with the diamond ring of the commisioner. Bakker bought the image as a postcard from a secondhand store in New Orleans, then embellished it with white gold and diamonds that resemble water droplets flowing from the bucket down the model’s muscular back. The movement and elegance in the original image was heightened by the placement of the gemstones. Bakker eventually created two additional brooches using the same image; one is in the collection of the Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch, the other in a private collection.

Gijs Bakker (1942) is a Dutch jewerly and industrial-designer, educated at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Konstfackskolan in Stockholm. Over the years, he has taught at various European art academies and worked on numerous commercial collaborations, creating everything from furniture through jewelry to public spaces. In 1985, Bakker began to use easily available and recognizable images of popular figures for his Sportsfigure series.

Passing by these items in the museum has made me doubtful about if it’s serious or some sort of joke ending up in the kitschy result. I’ve found this contradictional impression interesting enough to deal with it a bit further.

But what is jewellery’s role in our modern and future lives?

In the late 1960s, Gijs Bakker and Emmy Van Leersum, created a furor with their avant-garde jewelry and clothing that fused fashion, design, and art. They were the first to make minimal jewelry out of unorthodox materials, such as aluminium and plexiglas. The pair set of a real revolution in jeverly design. Bakker and Van Leersum’s breakthrough came in 1967 when they presented their vision of a total concept of fashion and jewelry with a spectacular show at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. It was a provocation after which jewelery totally changed,especially on the subject of the concept of beauty and functionality.

 

 

MS04foto_matthijs schrofer_lowres

 

The most famous item of jewelry featured in the show is undoubtedly Bakker’s Stovepipe Necklace (with matching bracelet), now an icon of Dutch design. Bakker was the first designer to create a piece of jewelry of such audacity and on such a scale. It was a provocation.

 

The-Gijs-and-Emmy-Spectacle-exhibition-at-the-Stedelijk-Museum_dezeen_3

 

3.1999-K80249(A-C)A

 

 

https://vimeo.com/89612291

 

Afterwards his role in dutch jewellry design became really important in Holland, it changed the view on jewellry.

 

In 1993 he founded Droog Design, a Dutch collective of designers, products and information, together with design critic and historian Renny Ramakers. Together with Ramakers, Bakker was the selector and art director of all products within Droog. Droog works with independent designers to design and realize products, projects, exhibitions and events. During the Milan Furniture Fair in 1993, the duo presented a selection of sober designs made of industrial materials and found objects. The presentation was titled ‘Droog Design’, because of the simplicity and dry humor of the objects. The Droog collection is curated by Renny Ramakers and consists of around 200 products by more than a hundred designers. New designs are often developed and presented in relation with exhibitions “Saved by Droog” is an element of Droog design that buys up stock and transforms it into something completely new with a distinct voice and purpose. It’s more than sustainable design; it’s a “reflection of the designer’s creativity.

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http://www.droog.com/

 

In current design projects Bakker investigates the relation between craft and design. Since 2009, he is exploring this theme in his role as creative director for HAN Gallery, formerly known as Yii in Taiwan.His new series ‘Go for Gold’ emphasizes the importance of gold in the competitive world of sports, business and politics. By laser-welding gold on titanium or by laser-cutting gold under titanium, the brooches literally go for gold.

 

 

 „I am watching football in the same way as I am watching ballet”

 

The Sport figures series used copies of images from various newspapers of athletes in track along with contrasting, valuable materials like gold for example – to emphasize and highlight a particular moment. The practice of this clash of substances ends up in a playful tension that comes from having precious gems combined with an everyday object, bringing focus (or questioning) the bordeline between „cheap” and „expensive” materials.

Does the use of valueable material makes something a jewerly (as the commissioner ask for it) or does it become a design piece driven by the vision of the maker himself?

Since he was fluently shifting through content, character, and medium it makes it hard to categorize the Sportsfigure seriess. Visual references from sports, automotives, and history are imbued with a trademark postmodern stance: sarcastic, ironic, and unsubtly nonconforming.

All of the works demonstrate his unconventional relationship with his discipline, as Bakker once admitted, „I dislike jewelry. I dislike the behavior of jewelry buying ladies. I dislike ladies jewelry. jewelry shops depress me. if jewelry is only decorative, I lose interest. I like jewelry because it is absolutely superfluous. I like jewelry because it is never a priori functional. I like jewelry because like clothes, it is closest to our body and says something about the wearer. a painting is hung on the wall and can be ignored. a piece of jewelry is worn and creates an impression.”

 

For the first look the Waterman seemed for me like objects what you find in shops selling useless stuff for tourist, ranging the weirdest combinations of taste and culture.  Yet Bakker’s main approach was driven by the concept over the final product. So instead of the craftmanship’s usual categories, he tried to focus on the driving though behind the piece, which in this case was the clash of materials, a suprising marriage between the everydayness of the papercut picture and the stones. For me, this piece is still about the beauty itself (like all jewellery), just inviting a rather unusual form of it, at least within this field. But picking athletes somehow still tells about the beauty, so this piece becomes a celebration of the natural born beauty, combined and emphisized by the diamonds, which becomes a secondary tool for this purpose rather then the main „attraction” or message of the work. Like if it would pass it’s shine to the photo itself.

Yet I think that next to all the importance of conceptual approach, the visual and applied design principle shouldn’t be left behind too much, especially in an originally and historicly applied discipline like jewellery. I feel that it’s just not the right tool or way to mediate such a message. Let’s be honest, a jewel is made for wearing, but who would walk around in a piece like Waterman?

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 some companies 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 a car, in a 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 and I think 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.

An aspect of 3D printing that I find particularly interesting is the way you share a product. The designer creates a file that could basically be printed anywhere by any 3D printer (if the printer is able to do so), but then a question appears, how is he going to sell it ? In a shop as a finished object or on internet/in a shop as a file still ?

What will make him choose a certain option ? If you decide to sell for example your 3D printed vases in a shop, you will propose to the public a definite object, with definite colors, materials and price. These choices will be of course part of your research and of course as a designer you know better than anyone the nice colors, but you don’t give to the buyer many possibilities. Eventually you could print ten times the same vase with each time different materials and/or colors, but then you take the risk that some of them might not be successful. You might have eventually planned everything with a marketing analyze or something else, but I am sure that 3D printing could be exploited in a much better way. In this way, the 3D print is not highlighted.

Imagine that you sell the product on your website. The vase that you created has a definite shape, but no colors for the moment, it is still a neutral file, just a shape. Then you put it online and decide the price of it. You could also suggests some colors or materials, without saying that one is better than another. The customer will be free now to  print the vase as he wants. There is no risk of overproduction in this case and there is also an attractive aspect for the customer. He might feel involved in the project and enjoy the fact of being part of the creative process. I talked about the price previously and I think this aspect is also interesting to discuss. How would you fix a price ? If the customer want to print it at home, you would sell a file only, so the customer will print and pay the material by himself. What is the value of it ? Is it in terms of technical innovation or complexity ? Or in terms of originality ? 3D printing could also lead to personal (home) creations and lead to the disappearance of designers. Of course, there will always be designers, but they could be at stake. For sure, this solution is possible only if a great number a person would have 3D printer at home, and it is still not the case, but it may happen soon. We can already see this kind of website where you have the possibility to create your own product.

I am also wondering about reproduction, re-appropriation and protection. How can you protect a product from reproduction or re-appropriation ? How could you recognize an original from the copie ? You could not.

The last possibility that I find personally the most interesting nowadays is to have your own 3D design/print shop. Imagine that you have your design studio that is at the same time a production place. You keep into the studio a selection of the products, accompanied by suggestions of colors and materials. Customers would come into the shop and ask for the vase 3D printed in red and blue plastic with maybe some adjustements. The nice thing is that you have then a real contact with the buyer, you can advice them, keep them informed and help them. You can imagine many things with 3D printing. It could provide a solution to over-production and consumption.

For example, companies could provide 3D files that allows you to print the piece of your machine that is broken instead of ordering it and get it from the other side of the world. You would just have to print it. For sure, the materials that you use to print will not come alone, but I think it could help. There are many other subjects to discuss, so if you are interested in 3D printing, you should have a look at this conference  about the environmental impact of 3D printing that was given on December 13th 2013.

A lot of people are active in 3D printing research. This is the case of Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California which has been developing since 1998 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 also, 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 really nice project with 3D printing technique. I hope you enjoyed this article.

3D printing is definitely the technology of tomorrow.

MODEL SCULPTURE & DRAGONS


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.

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.

design blog

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 (and 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. A model can be seen in ways that exceed its limits as a technical object.

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 from 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. The model can open a whole new world for our imagination to create, a transcendental realm full of fire, wonder, and dragons.

Paul Schuitema: a pioneer of photomontage in the field of food industry


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 also designed furniture, practiced photography and typography. He constructed his advertisements on the principles of De Stijl (more mathematical, abstract and simplified, when compared to previous styles) and Constructivism (as art had to contain social means). El Lissitzky’s ideas, as well as Rodchenko’s (his way of using new angles in photography – such as from high above or down below the subject) influenced him in the design of his industrial advertisements. Those same influences can be found in the works of his colleague, Piet Zwart. Repetition, geometrical forms and the use of primary colors are used in a similar way in both their posters. Paul Schuitema 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.

Schuitema

He started to use Photomontage in 1926 and was one of the pioneers of this technique in the field of industrial design. 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 projects are now executed. More and more of 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 and art works, the medium used is now rarely thought as a finality in itself.

This new technique and his influences can be noticed in other posters of his:schuitema_lg

Primary colors, the use of photography, repetition and new angles as from high above or from down below are used in this second poster as well. Here is another example of his colleague’s, Piet Zwart’s, work, which is closely related to his:

pion6

After paying attention to Paul Schuitema’s poster (the first example used) – 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, of different syles, 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.

Based on the same principles of photomontage, the Dutch group of graphic designers « Wild Plakken » (1977) created posters with a specific social and political goal. They chose clients according to their ideological means. Their belief that a designer had to use his graphic designs in order to mix life to art related to Paul Schuitema and his influences of De Stijl and Constructivism. They illegally pasted posters in Amsterdam, fulfilling this idea of spreading their ideals. Women rights and racism are some examples of subjects they would portray in their posters.

CRI_7259

 

Some of the same principles of Paul Schuitema can be refound in the esthetic of this poster. In the same way as in the Berkel’s ham industry poster, a different feeling appeals to me. This example of  the Wild Plakken’s poster doesn’t recall innocence, but still gives me a feelling that such an image on such subjects, today, is not as easily disposed for everyone in the city. It is interesting to see how, through time and the development of one technique – such as photomontage – these posters still give a feeling that a gap has been created. Paul Schuitema’s poster and this one example, still give me the impression that this type of expression is less accessible to everyone nowadays.

On the subject of the portrayal of food through images : 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.

Andreas-Gursky-4

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. The opposition of those two examples, in the way they apply photomontage, can maybe explain the gap that I feel in the feeling those images give. As one (Paul Schuitema’s poster) shows a one sided image on how to perceive a subject, the other (« 99 cent »)  faces you to a situation, without giving a straight opinion but implying it through the image.

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. 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 art works are proceeded 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.

 

2701091233096716superstudio_monument_1_kl

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.

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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.

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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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