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How deep can we go? – The conflicts about problematic issues

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Who are Studio Wieki Somers and Thomas Eyck? During this research I posted myself the question what the relationship is between them and why they want to make a project about the problematic issues of our world society. I also got inspired by the specific work called ‘Deepwater’ which is related to the oil problem in the world. This motivated me to question and think of how to solve this problematic issue much further.

Back in 2000, Wieki Somers (Dutch designer, born in Sprang-Capelle, 1976) graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven. After her graduating she settled with Dylan van den Berg, with whom she studied in Eindhoven. Together they started Studio Wieki Somers in Rotterdam. Wieki Somers and Dylan van den Berg are focusing on providing an enlightened reading of the everyday movement. Focusing and making sensitivity of materials, technological ingenuity and fantasy. They make objects that you as out-stander at first have to guess what it is and what they are doing. That is the whole point of what they want, making an art piece with a functional state in it. ‘‘Basically our work is one big quest, one big process. We look at things around us, what they can be and the associations people have. We study customs everyday situations, unleashing our own imagination on them. We make the uncommon common.’’ thus Wieki Somers

‘’As a designer it’s not my attention to make the world a better place, but I’m pleased if people look at the world differently because of my products.’’

People get ideas and inspirations from the work of Wieki Somers and that’s also how Thomas Eyck got involved. Thomas Eyck is a publisher and collector and he divide characteristic and exclusive design products from this time. He stimulate designers to come up with new objects for the daily life. Together they research for different kinds of materials and making new products out of it. This is how the Deepwater work was made when Thomas Eyck asked Studio Wieki Somers to worked together.

The Deepwater work is created in collaboration between Studio Wieki Somers and Thomas Eyck in 2016. It immediately caught my attention while I was walking through the exhibition of “Change the System’’ in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The work is simple, yet very impressive. It has a strong design in contrast to the other works presented in the same room. Deepwater represents a vase which is a collection of the design “Still Waters’’. Thomas Eyck commissioned Studio Wieki Somers to design a series of objects with the theme “water”. These series are five glass vases and each form a poetic interpretation of the water cycle. The vases represent a topical theme regarding the problematic relationship between humans and nature.


LTVs_WiekiSomers_05_Deepwater, Labadie


The Deepwater vase is made out of glass filled with oil floating on water. In the center of this vase a stem with leaves is represented. The oil refers to the disrupted human actions like the results of the eco-catastrophe “Deepwater Horizon’’, this was an industrial disaster that began on April 20, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a big explosion of the drilling platform Deepwater Horizon. Studio Wieki Somers and Thomas Eyck wanted to show how conflicting the values are that ascribe our resources.




How can you stimulate more people when you think about this collection? And in my case about the oil problem. Because using oil is something we should take very seriously if we think about our precious world. Our nature is capable of breaking down oil itself, but this is going very slowly. The quantities of oil that enter the environment through human intervention are so great that nature has difficulties with it. Of course the place plays a role, normally it is safely stored under the ground but when it comes into the water or on land it is just a strange substance. Just what happened to the Deep Water Horizon catastrophe. How can we clean up this mess if we constantly spill so much oil?

Thankfully there are many ways to clean the oil out of the water. I found materials and information and tried these out:




In this video I'll show you an impression about removing oil out of the water.
For this experiment I used a glass jar, water, oil, cotton balls and a sponge. First I used cotton balls to remove the oil.
The cotton ball soaks the oil out of the water each time you use one. Then I wanted to see if it also works by using a sponge.
The water will get more clear once you do this repeatedly and it works perfect.


Of course this is not enough for an entire ocean, but it’s clearly that we could discover more with materials just like Wieki Somer and Thomas Eyck are presenting. We have to dig deeper and come up with much bigger ideas to solve the oil problem. There are machines or boats with different kinds of techniques by getting out the oil out of the ocean, but still there will be leftovers and we discover that years later by accident. Of course we think of other different ways to solve this for the future, for example; using electricity. The using of oil are mostly for machines and vehicles and these will run in the future with electricity.

So yes, just like Wieki Somers I would feel the same way by not making attention to make the world a better place, but to encourage and to let people think about these kinds of topics. I think we discovered already so much about materials, technologies and objects to improve our environment. Who knows what further will be discovered in the future.


Transitions – from autonomous to applied arts

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A line, a letter, a page, a building, a photo, a book – separate stages that can either stand by themselves or remain transitioning points while executing somebody’s vision. It is common that an artist starts one’s creative process with making a sketch or writing down a sentence that popped out in the head, though, later on this idea might get a completely unexpected appearance. After the piece is created it will most likely be documented in a book, that sometimes serves as an autonomous work. Therefore, it is important to choose a right graphic designer to collaborate together for this process.


For my design research, I have decided to look into Alon Levin’s designed book ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’ that is a documentation of the former contemporary art pavilion in Almere.




According to the Artistic Managing Director of the Museum De Paviljoens, Macha Roesink, the aim of this book was to expose the complexity of building such as De Paviljoens and document the history in a case study of the life of a building, in the form of a journal composed of accounts by many of the people who have been involved.



Museum De Paviljoens


The building is transportable, like the ultimate kit, but it is standardized to meet building regulations. Documenting it in a book clearly makes it even more handy. I think it was not accidental that Alon Levin was invited to design the book as he himself works transiting from fine arts to design. To understand the concept of his way of working, it is important to look at his other projects.


In A. Levin’s book ‘Things Contemporary’ published by Dexter Sinister & Alon Levin, 2009 he talks about his interest in man’s eternal pursuit of order; not the ideal of order, which renders things absolute, resolve and static, but in the actual process of organizing things, which inevitably falls short. Artist takes up forms such as the triumphal arch, the victorious podium, or the Ferris wheel, and translates them into model-like wooden constructions and plaster forms reminiscent of the model. It creates images for the ambiguity of success and failure, for the instability of ideological, economic and scientific systems. Analogous to the accumulation and formation of knowledge in the “free encyclopedia” Wikipedia also Levin prefers, when he reused, deconstructed or repeated individual elements of his own works. Data, buildings and documents appear as moving building blocks in a constantly transforming and updating view of the world. To process this information, he uses charts, diagrams and transforms his knowledge into abstract geometrical shapes that later become sculptures or installations. Space-grabbing constructions from simple materials available in the construction market are based on the exploration of the technical and architectural achievements of the Western world and their significance for contemporary society.




Things Contemporary published by Dexter Sinister & Alon Levin, 2009

Even though, it seems Alon Levin himself does not see switching from graphic design to fine arts as transitioning, I was curious to find out when and how do these two spheres meet. His pieces and texts are based on invoke either the incalculably large or the immeasurably small, hence the mathematical sublime, the way in which they thematise structure and collapse points. Using the design made for ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’ and photos of various installations I tried to create some ‘systems’ that could represent their ‘shape’. I discovered he used three sizes for the font, therefore a zigzag in my drawings representing ‘text’ in the book is in three different sizes. Considering purified and structured shapes he applies into his pieces I decided to replicate both pages and 3D objects into slightly modified, geometricized shapes. At some point I realized a certain rhythm appears, which blurs the line between two subjects of my research.





Left – sketches of installations by Alon Levin, Right – schemes based on ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’


In fact, these two ‘sequences’ I made are just my interpretations of Levin’s creations. They might transit into something new and exciting at some point and that would probably be sort of an example the way the original author was building them. In ‘Things Contemporary’ he admitted that during his studies at Gerrit Rietveld Academie he wanted to understand the power of manipulating information: not just consume it, but to actually make it. To try and understand how all the information we ingest daily is organized and what the thoughts and structures behind it are. I think one of the best representations of this attitude is in his project ‘The Basics of Growth’ that dealt with similar ideas in botany as in economy, making some comparison through books that A. Levin had published himself. The content of these books was from Wiki that provides the material for the content of a book. He later on transits from the book into 3D structure based on the same subject, which in this case was a greenhouse on the rooftop of the office building.



The Basics of Growth

I presume researching the history of the pavilions, he applied this same method in a reverse version – firstly, understanding the building with its context and then transmitting it into a book.

Throughout my research I learned that the endless cyclical game is the fundament of Levin’s work – a natural flow that drives him from one medium to another.


De Paviljoens : journal of a building, 1992-2004 /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.4 pav 1

Material Alchemy

Monday, November 28, 2016

Living in a time where we turn our resources into waste in high speed makes me very much wonder about the time where our planet’s virgin materials will be depleted. Our constantly growing world population leads to a growing demand for materials. Since materials are fundamental to everything we engage with, new ways of manufacturing them are needed.

Is there a way to turn all our waste back into resources?

Diving back into the mystical secrets of twelfth-century Alchemy led the Amsterdam based designer duo Studio Drift to a way of transforming our chemical waste into something new. By processing initially considered intractable chemical residual material, Studio Drift explores an entirely new way of gaining a material resembling to the volcanic glass Obsidian [x].

After a particular heating process, the glowing mixture can be poured into molds and the obtained outcome is a material with its very own unique characteristics. It sounds like metal, looks like glass and is heavy as a stone.
When I look in the polished black surface of this synthetic obsidian, my own effigy gets reflected by the waste.


The Obsidian Project made by Stuio Drift


But do we even need all those resources to produce materials we can only hardly recycle later?
While many designers are intently trying to close the cycle of production and recycling to support a circular economy, alternative ways of producing material without any need of resources are considered.

The current generation of designers, alchemists and scientists are crossing the boundaries to explore the unexplored and reshape the future by growing living organisms as materials.
Dealing with a lot of various materials in my every-days study awakes huge interest in the process of replacing toxic materials with long-term, sustainable material solutions.

Following the steps of designers and scientists I started to research about approaching materials in unconventional ways. With the advancements of synthetic biology a palette of futuristic ways to grow material by itself are evolved.
To gain a better understanding of the process and potential of these materials, I started a project of exploring one of those self growing organisms myself.
Inspired and fascinated by bio-materials that grow by themselves I decided to explore Mycelium, a material grown out of convenient Mushrooms such as Fungi.
A small research led me to Mediamatic, where I met Wouter Hass, the expert mycologist and owner of the Amsterdam-based Mycophilia. With a lot of enthusiasm he gave me a closer insight in his work. In a mostly self-built laboratory he searches for the unexplored potential of Fungi. Not only as regards taste he admires the mushroom, he also grows big blocks of Bio-Material out of it, which can be used as isolation and packaging material and later be composted.


After our interesting conversation about the whole process, I could not wait to gave it a try myself. Following Wouters instructions, I sterilized straw by cooking and cultivated it with Fungi spores. Stored in a plastic bag in the dark, fruiting bodies constructed by white fungal network with reproductive structures are growing. These structures are called Mycelium. In the woods these strains transfer the nutrients, as well as they detoxificate dead plants.

Mycelium in straw_1100

After a few weeks it grew to a block which I now separated in pieces. These pieces I placed together with jute in a mold, made out of two buckets. Humidified and covered by a foil it is stored in the dark of my closet again. If everything works out well, the pieces will soon grow together and overgrow the jute.

After a process of fully drying the Bio-Material the potential of this organism seems to be endless. The Outcome is a light but strong material. Alternatively to letting Mycelium grow into its supposed shape, it can even be 3D printed. Its developments can be found in fields like fashion, design and architecture. It is used in form of a leather-like textile, furniture, packaging as well as construction material and many more as I saw at Dutch Design Week 2016. [x]

By further developments of Mycelium, many ecologically harmful materials could probably be replaced by a fully compostable product that merges science and nature.

Another ongoing personal research of growing materials is about bacteria. By culturing the bacteria of Kombucha in sugared tea,  a healthy drink is made.Further than that it grows a slightly transparent surface. As soon as this surface reaches the desired thickness, it can be removed and dried to a skin-like material. An inspiring conversation at the pop up Pet-Shop [x] from Waag society made me curious to give it a try myself.

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Fashion designers such as Suzanne Lee [x] and Sacha Laurin [x] are important pioneers in growing clothes from bacteria. A closer look into the usage of grown textile is given  in the very interesting blogpost ‘Bio Fashion Future Fashion‘ by Alba. Considering one kilogram of cotton requires 23.000 l water and mostly grows in developing countries, Kombucha couture seems like a fundamental step into a more economical future to me.

The palette of possibilities of synthetic materials gained without using the world’s last resources is literally growing in many directions. Other impressive designers such as Laura Lynn Jansen & Thomas Vailly even found a way of growing Stoneware which can be seen here.

I consider those developments of biologically grown material as a good start to solve one of our biggest global issues and I am very curious about the first outcome of my own try outs which i want to keep updated here. Meanwhile Deezen has some really nice articles to read more about synthetic material.

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