Class G Basic Year 2017
DESIGNING THE SURFACE, HET NIEUWE INSTITUUT
Research book: ”I like to sit on a bamboo chair, a bamboo chair is made of aluminium”.
Last Februari Henk’s Groenendijks’s design class went to ‘’Het nieuwe instituut’’ museum in Rotterdam to the exhibition: ‘’designing the surface’’. Unfortunately, i was sick for quite some time, so i could not join. But it is nice that my classmates and Henk gave me a little book about this exhibition. A quite extraordinary one at the first sight. In a quasi-poetic way various issues about the contemporary approach, meaning and usage of the surface were described. The book relates this topic to its importance within design in contemporary design and how it might influence the future.
I chose to write about the book :’’I like to sit on a bamboo chair, a bamboo chair is made from aluminium.’ I use this ‘’bamboo chair’’ as an example of what discussion it can evoke. It is only the title of the book, the chair might not exist. but I find it a quite interesting example. But, since I know nothing more about this bamboo chair, i have to assume something to make its artificial existence a little more concrete. I am declaring that this aluminium chair has a bamboo print, and that is why the designer is calling it: ‘’a bamboo chair made of aluminium’’.
In the book, the topic “surface’’ is described in 6 acts which are explaining different levels of “the surface’’. I’m going to relate the six acts to ‘’the bamboo chair made of aluminium’’ written in the title of the book. I’ll give a short explanation of every chapter and then I am going to relate every chapter to ‘’the bamboo chair’’.
ACT I In which condition is only skin deep
In this act, the main topic is the decay of the acid fountain in the gallery. The acid fountain is throwing acid which evokes a chemical reaction between the material that makes it possible for the acid to be thrown. This chemical reaction evokes a colourful spectacle because of the reaction between the acid and the material. The material exist out of different kinds of metal. Each piece of metal gives another chemical reaction. Slowly the metal will be eaten by the acid. The surface changes as it is the fundament of its destroyer, the acid. but because the surface changes, we can read its true conditions because of the different colourful chemical reactions between the acid and the metal.
Related to the bamboo chair: The bamboo chair is made of aluminium. But the designer is calling it a bamboo chair. Just by adjusting its surface, a whole discussion about the object can arise. How can one sell a bamboo chair as a bamboo chair while it is made of aluminium?
Just like the acid is changing the surface and shows the conditions of the metal to show its differences by a chemical reaction. The conditions of the aluminium can be questioned by adjusting its surface. Questions such as: much conditions between the aluminium and the bamboo are in common. If the designer is able to produce a bamboo print upon the chair so it appears to be a bamboo chair and a spectator cannot see the difference between ‘’real bamboo’’ and ‘’fake bamboo’’ and beside that at least one important archetype is represented ‘’being lightweight’’, can we than call the chair a bamboo chair?.
ACT II In which all that glitters is not gold
This act is about the detailed finishing of the material by editing or adjusting the surface, which appeals to our attraction to the object. In this state of adapting the surface it is possible to bring in a certain authenticity to the object/product.
The bamboo chair could simply have been an ordinary aluminium chair. But fact is, there are thousands of aluminium chairs on this world. As a designer, you are often making things for the commercial market. If you are producing a chair, you want to make an original one. Because thousands of chairs have already been made. Also aluminium chairs, and also bamboo chairs. You want your fingerprint to be effective, you want your expenses to be low. Fact is that an aluminium chair is highly sustainable. You can easily place it outside in all weather. You might like the material bamboo more because of its appearance, but it is less sustainable than aluminium. So, you mix them up, so you have archetypes of both products you like, and at the same time you have made a very original chair that no one made before only by adjusting the surface with a bit of paint. Cheap, and effective. Perhaps even the first bamboo chair made of aluminium in the whole world!
Act III In which nothing is as it sees
The third act assumes that an imitation can actually optimize the essence of a material. It can be an honouring of the material.
Bamboo chair: This topic I already described a bit in earlier chapters. If you are smart as a designer you can choose different archetypes of different materials. Like the chair is an ode to bamboo while certain archetypes of the bamboo are used, and some are even improved. You might call this bamboo chair a better version than a conventional bamboo chair .
ACT IV in which paint takes the power back
How can paint be a revolting, efficient, quick and direct material to express revolutionary thoughts? In the book, there is an example given of revolutionaries who are using paint to change their environment rapidly. It is a radical and highly efficient way of changing the rapidly surface. Anyone can do it.
Bamboo chair: As I described in act II. Paint can be a highly effective and radical way to change an object. The surface lays on the outside of an object, and that’s why you see the surface at first. When you change the surface, you also change the interpretation of a spectator.
ACT V In which to come clean, is a home truth
This act describes how we consort our fears by adjusting the surface. Fears such as the fear of decay.
Bamboo Chair: This has also a lot to do with my explanation of Act II. While making a more sustainable version of the bamboo chair we are actually improving it to prevent the object against a human fear: decay. That’s a certain fear that is directly visible for the consumer. But what the consumer might forget is that bamboo is much more environmentally friendly than aluminium. You can buy a new bamboo chair one a year for 30 years in a row, and you still have a smaller environmental footprint than buying a aluminium bamboo chair. So, what kind of decay is important for the consumer? What does this bamboo chair tells us about our relation to design and the world? Does it mean that we just want to feel comfortable as individuals? And we often forget about the impact that comes with this comfort?
Here a small bit of a serie of artworks from Lou Mouw who studies at UDK berlin. Its about the unsustainable conditions of aluminium towards the environment
(I found out that he is not right…. This reactor was located in zeeland. The first one was build in doodewaard, in order to test nucliair energy. https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerncentrale_Dodewaard
https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerncentrale_Borssele ) But still. Aluminium is just really bad for our environment. Really bad…
Act VI In which the future is superficial
In this chapter, the author describes an artwork of Anish Kapoor (Mumbai 1954) https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anish_Kapoor . He is using a material which is considered as ‘’the blackest black on earth’’ while it is absorbing 99.5% of light which reflects on the material. In this article (sorry,it is in dutch) https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/1995/03/17/wegzinken-in-het-zwartste-zwart-gesprek-met-anish-7260485-a633126 a journalist is visiting an artwork made from this material that Anish Kapoor is exhibiting during the last Dokumenta in Kassel. He describes his experience during this exhibition. He tells that he entered the gallery space and saw Kapoor’s work: A big black cloth in a square share on the ground. So at the first sight he thought that this was just a version 1000000 of Malevich ‘’Black Square’’. But, with a little more information you can understand that this black square of Kapoor is actually an interesting challenge to Malevich black square. What lies under the surface is technology. Not visible at first sight, but if you shine a lazer light on it, you’ll be able to question: Who made the blackest black? Kapoor of Malevich?
Bamboo Chair: What lies into and under the surface? Is there anything more to discover? Can we actually see what lies under the surface? People can sell us anything, but if we really want to know what we buy, we have to take a closer look and maybe do some research. Perhaps we cannot recognize any difference between this bamboo chair and ‘’a real one’’ because this ‘’fake design’’ might seem to appear very real. We don’t know what is happening in the lab of the designer, and we don’t know what future technological inventions will bring us. So we should stay sharp. But, is it actually possible to know everything from what you consume? There is just too much to research…
STEDELIJK, GRAYSON PERRY
Two weeks after we went to the Stedelijk to visit the Design collection. In order to choose an artwork of interest and than relate it to one of the Acts of the book. I chose the work ‘’Floating world’’ of Grayson Perry. I want to relate this artwork to the last Act i described: ‘’In which the future is superficial’’.
Grayson Perry, floating world.
At the first sight this pot appears to be a cute ceramic pot that you could recognize from your grandparent’s home collection. Conventional in form, colour, and usage of glace. But if you come closer to the pot, you might be shocked by the images of car accidents, penises and dead people. It is extraordinary to explore this kind of images on a cute pot like this.
You can recognize a controversial aspect in the title of the pot called: ‘’Floating world’’ which refers to: Ukiyo-e. Ukiyo-e (literal translation: floating world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukiyo-e ) is a genre of woodblock print and painting technic originating from the Japanese art
tradition. In this genre the hedonistic lifestyle of the high-class from the 17th till the 19th century is pictured. The high class decorated their homes with these images of their high society lifestyle. Perry makes a link to this subject. The artist is referring to the original Ukiyo-e style in which artworks are functioning as decorative pieces. Perry’s work could been seen as traditional and decorative from a distance. You cannot see what is going on at the surface from a far distance. But if you get really close, you can see the provoking images. By then you see that you are not watching a conventional piece of decorative ceramics, but something that reacts on this. As a platform for protest.
The Ukiyo-e is showing the nice high class lifestyle, and this piece suddenly displays violence, pain, and sex. We have to know that we have to take a closer look to designed objects to understand its origins. If you don’t do this, you might risk that you give you grandma a ceramic pot full of penises for her 80th birthday. A fun anecdote to tell: My own grandmother was a very conservative woman. In the 60’s with the summer of love and all the hippies my father had long hair and my grandmother really disliked this. She disliked anything that had anything to do with hippies. But then one day, when she was in a more emphatic mood, she gave my father a tie-dyed t-shirt because she thought he would like it. But what she never knew, there was a text and an image pressed on the t-shirt, not easy to read though: ‘’save water: shower with a friend’’ , and four feet wrestling.