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"Matching !? Design-and-Art" Project

Playing with the System

Thursday, June 4, 2015


In the Booijmans exhibition ‘Setting the Scene’ both a work of Joep van Lieshout and Bas Jan Ader are shown next to each other in the theme room System. Does it make sense to combine these artists and to place them in this category? We try to answer this question by looking at the oeuvre of both artists.


The work of van Lieshout  that is shown in the exhibition is 12 crates, 12 stones. By ‘accident’ van Lieshout found out that they exactly fit together. But this is not all that random, because almost everything around us is build according to a system of standard measurements.

But 12 crates, 12 stones is not really representative for the work of Van Lieshout, aesthetically it looks like an outsider. He does however frequently use the notion of System in his work, but rather in the sense of human systems.

Joep van Lieshout, 12 stones - 12 crates, 1987

A good example is his work slave city (2005-2008). In the concept for this city, van Lieshout  developed a system to re-use human bodies. The inhabitants that are not suitable for work can be recycled.

Van Lieshout, Zero Foot Print, 2008

Next to  this conceptual approach van Lieshout makes a lot of visual work showing the human system. In his organ sculpture series he took parts of this inner system outside of the body in a big and stylised form.

Van Lieshout, Organs - Penis XL, 2003

He also took the shape of organs into design and architecture. A great example is the CasAnus, a giant sculptural enlargement of the digestion system. The inside contains everything that a comfortable hotel room has, and for 120 euros you can spend the night in it.

Van Lieshout, CasAnus, 2007

If I reflect his work, I would say that Van Lieshout uses the human body system in two major ways. Both provocative (showing the inside, using body as flesh, focus on genitals) and functional (recycling, using shapes for design).



Bas  Jan  Ader’s  work  Primary  time  is  also  shown  in  the  the  room  System  as  wel. The   connection  to  this  video  with  the  theme  is just as  Van  Lieshouts’s  12  crates  12   stones-­  totally  obvious:  a  bouqetue  of  flowers  are  variously  arranged  by  variating   colour.

Bas Jan Ader, Primary Time, 1974

But  is  Bas  jan  Aders  further  ouvre  related  to  this  theme  as  wel  or  is  it  just  this   specific  work  that  fits  in?   On  fitst  hand  I tought  the last  example  was  trough.  But  when  I  made  a  small   investigation  on  his  work  I  saw  it  was  very  accurate  to  place  him  in the  room   “system”.   When  you  look  at  the  whole  ouvre  of  Bas  Jan  Ader  you  can  recognise  a  certain   struggle  with  the  system.  For example  in the  “fall”  serie”.  He  falls  from  a  roof,  from  a   bike,  from  a  brach,  etc.  He  puts  himself  in  situations  where  the  fall  is ineveteble,  the   gravity  wil  win  overpower  anyway.  In  this  work  he  is  dealing  with  the  rules  of   gravity:  a  deadlocked  system.  He reveals in  a metaphorical  way  how  this  system  is   overpowering  us.

Bas Jan Ader, Fall II, Amsterdam, 1970

The  work  “PietNiet”  shows  Mondriaan-­alike  paintings  with  no  horizontal  &  vertical   lines  but  only  diagonal  lines,  with  letters  in  them forming  the  statement  “piet  niet”   (what  means  “no  piet”).  Also  in  this  work  you  can  recognise  this  urge  to  uncover  a   system,  in  this case  more  related  to  the  artworld.

In  his  famous  and  fatal  last  work  “in  search  of  the  miraculous”  he  tried  to  cross  the   ocean  in  a  little  boat.  This  failed  and  he  died somewhere  on  the  the  atlantic  sea.  It’s   very  clear  that  he  challenging  mortality  here;  the  ultimate  system  that  we  all  obey.   Bas  Jan Ader  as  a  filibuster  who  used  poetic  metaphors  who  that  the  attempt  to   bring  down  every  system,  even  if  its  doomed  to  fail,  and maybe even,  especially   because  its  doomed  to  fail.



Bas  Jan  Ader  and  Joep  van  Lieshout  both  deal  with  systems  in  their  work.    At   van  Lieshout  work  this  is  more  a  fascination; he isolates  and  enlarges  certain   systems  in  a  -often  humoristic-­  visual  language.  To  play  around  and  to  investigate   them.  Bas  Jan Ader  is more  challenging  the  system,  he  tries  to  break  them  down,   what  gives  a  more  philosophical  note  to  his  work.  And  maybe, because  all his   attemps  fail,  you  can  even  call  it  romantic.

On  the  other  hand  is  there  also  a  big  thing   these  artist  might  have  in common;  an  awareness  of  how  many  systems  are  dictating   us. Bas  Jan  Ader  plays  around  with  the  systems  of  life  itself,  Joep  van Lieshout  is   finding  this  challange  maybe  more  in  the  artworld.  He breaks  the  distuigishment   between  art  en  design  and  he  makes  it inpossible  for  the  vieuwer  to  put  a  stamp  on   his  work.  Maybe  smart from  van  Lieshout  to  find  this  chalange  in  the  art  world  and  not in the real world, because – as Bas Jan Ader showed – playing around with the systems of real life can be fatal.


The Grey Area between Art and Design

Thursday, June 4, 2015

We got the assignment to pick one artist and one designer at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, and that’s what we thought we’ve done. However, after researching Lars Englund and Niek Kemps we realized that they both are considered artists.  This mistake manifests the confusion of the grey aria of what an artist and designer can be.


Lars Nittve, director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, stated that Lars Englund, Swedish sculptor, could not be put into a drawer: “Not abstraction. Not concretism. Not minimalism. Not even post-minimalism.” For the last 50 years he has been a leading figure in the Swedish art scene, beginning as a painter, but finding himself in sculptures.

What he took from painting is the line – some of his sculptures seem to be drawings in space. And this is what his work actually is about: space. Space and volume, density and lightness, surface and emptiness. About inner and outer space.

Built from thin metal or thick black rubber, solid concrete and see-through plastic, he invites the visitor to “enter my works – but only with your mind”.

The intensity between something and nothing builds up tension, questions about empty space open doors to philosophical conversations. His often very simple means leave room for the viewer.

Over the last 50 years Lars Englund didn’t only make 40 public sculptures in Sweden, he also presented the country at the Venice Biennale in 1978.


Niek Kemps is a Dutch artist born in 1952, working mainly in Holland and Belgium. He has done several noticeable monuments all over Holland. Since 1979 he has done over 50 exhibitions and are a part of the collections of Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam to mention a few.

Monos II presented in the room titled mass at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum is one half of an oval egg shape hanging on the wall, reminds one of the shape of a belly. The surface is covered with beige polyester and plaid. The work almost creates an optical illusion of infinity. When the oval space that he created is dividing the light, it generates this “never-ending” impression. In his other works one can see a re-appearance of negative and positive space. As well the creation of space to divide and manipulate light. An example is Memory Watch from 2004. In this work he divided/created space with huge half moon shaped screens with a texture similar to human skin. In this installation, one can view the same themes returning again.

Bildschirmfoto 2015-05-21 um 12.33.19 Bildschirmfoto 2015-05-21 um 12.33.25

In the exhibition „Setting the Scene“ in the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum Rotterdam work of Lars Englund and Niek Kemps was put next to each other in the category Mass. Now it wasn’t as easy to tell who of them was an artist and who a designer, due to the shape and the setting of the works. Englund’s piece “Volume” could easily have been a design piece. Also our background knowledge about the artists and the spare guidance by the museum led to confusion and made it impossible to tell the difference.

While diving deeper into the works of Kemps and Englund, we found several similarities between the two: the architectural aspects in their work, the usage of space and non-space, the in- and excluding of space.We nearly got the impression, that they were the Dutch and the Swedish version of the same concept.  Both of Englund and Kemps work falls in to a group of artists that could be perceived as designer and architects due to the structural appearance of their work.

Also in the approach of the artists themselves towards their works you can see that they are artists, and not designers, since their objects have a lot more depth than mere functional objects. If you review the artworks from the exhibition in the context of the whole oeuvre of the artists the artistic essences of the works appear.

Why the works were put under the category “Mass”? We don’t know, since the works are more likely being labelled with words like volume, surface, space, density or lightness. The concept of comparing works from the fields of art and design was clear to us, however the categorization in the different rooms caused more confusion than clearness. We would have wished for a more open approach and a more clear  connections between the artists and designers.


The then contemporary pirate- The now lost artist

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The then contemporary pirate- The now lost artist



Once upon a time,
a baby was born.

Thirty three years later he disappeared.

It’s a fascinating story indeed as only a true captain with stone-strong beliefs and trustful instincts could proceed with such an ambition.
Aye! A captain he was. But in reality he was an artist. Or, thats what we like to call him nowadays. Or maybe what he really was is a contemporary pirate.I mean, he did have his own boat and he did start a journey that would last days and nights. And nights. And days. Until humanity never heard of him ever again.



Before the ship had sailed/ Primary time

He was unconsciously building this plan into his -back then, clueless- mind, and he had to go through different processes. But he was too sad to tell anyone.
His interests varied from falling into the Amsterdam canals to falling from roofs and such.

A rebellious soul, a living concept I would call him.
Or a concept with legs. (And the rest.)

He failed the exams at the famous art school ‘Gerrit Rietveld Academy’.
But he got in the Otis Art Institute. and managed to not only graduate, but also win the heart of his Dulcinea, the daughter of the principal.
And now I have to apologise if this story is too cliche for your taste, but it’s not my fault, that’s the actual story.


The theme of that day: Arrangement 

I will need to make a small twist though.

So the other day I was passing by a flower shop. Quite a nice one I must say. Behind the vitrine, there was a vase with a beautiful bouquet of three colours: Red, blue and yellow. A person was standing behind the vitrine and behind the vase and he was arranging the bouquet; it seemed like he didn’t like the yellow or the blue flowers as the next time I passed by the vitrine(few hours later), the bouquet was consisting only by red ones. It was a funny coincidence, later that day I found myself arranging my markers from red to yellow, green, blue and purple. And after that I was doing the same with my clothes and even my food. Yes. Funny.

The disappearance 

Well as I can’t hear anyone laughing and I have no idea what this text is all about, I will now silently walk away.

Tabula Rasa

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

rei-kawakubo copyConstant_Nieuwenhuijs_(1974)


1. Rei Kawabuko


Rei Kawakubo is a Japanese fashion designer. She first studied fine arts and literature at Keio university but then later thaught herself how to design and started making clothes under the label Comme des Garcons. In 1973 she incorporated it as a company. Soon Comme des Garcons became a label preferred by the Avant-garde. Kawakubo designes clothes with a modus operandi more familiar to conceptual art than to fashion.



Rei Kawakubo
and Yohji Yamamoto,


During the 1980s, her garments were primarily in black, dark grey or white but later more colors were added. The materials were often draped around the body and featured frayed, unfinished edges along with holes and a general asymmetrical shapes. Comme des Garcons is often referred as anti-fashion with their austere, deconstructed garments and the focus is more on the three-dimensionality of shapes and not so much on the surface and finish. By all these means Kawakubos designs challenges the traditional notions of beauty in fashion.


11310958_916720195016649_1749574529_n 11287469_916720101683325_2021034115_o 11281749_916720151683320_342495459_n

Rei Kawabuko,


In 1997 the spring/summer collection was an ironic commentary on female vanity and advertisements for cleavage enhancing bras and figure sculpting thights. These designs suggest that the mind no longer need to submit itself to the dictates of conventional notions of beauty, but it is free to find it where it will. Also that beauty may not reside in the places what our culture suggests but more in our own imagination.


What is beautiful doesn’t have to be pretty

Rei Kawakubo


Working together with other professionals like photographers and architects their approach in fashion is very collective. Kawakubo wants to be involved in all aspects of her business like photography, graphic design etc.



Rai Kawabuko


Ensemble is a top and a skirt from collection Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body. It is made of cheesecloth stapled together in layers of pattern sections. The sculptural silhouette and the complex piling reflects Japanese ideas about the garment, which is seen as a construction in space. Here the garment is an autonomous sculptural object and it is no longer dependent on the shape of the human body.

This garment was part of a exhibition in Booijmans museum under a theme: Tabula Rasa. I think Kawakubos design fits quite well to the theme because she has been quite groundbreaking in her field by challenging the traditional idea of beauty in fashion.


2. Constant Nieuwenhuys


Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920 Amsterdam – 2005 Utrecht), also known as Constant is dutch. He is a painter but he touched other fields such as sculpture, music and, what interests us, theory and architecture.

His brother Jan Nieuwenhuys, who was born a year after him also became
an artist and their paths are closely related as they founded together with Corneille, Asger Jorn, Karel Appel and others the Experimentele Groep in Holland in 1948. It is important to mention that all those people then took part to the CoBrA movement which we all know and which was a period when Constant painted a lot and a lot of beautiful paintings.



Constant Nieuwenhuys
Maskierte Ungehorsamkeit


Constant took part to the theorizing of CoBrA. In Wikipedia I found his theory resumed to six points, I translate it here.


– Realism is the negation of reality
– Who denies hapiness on Earth denies Art
– No good painting without great pleasure
– Civilization admits the beautiful to excuse the ugly
– The best painting is the one reason cannot admit
– Imagination is the way to know reality


After CoBrA, he briefly joined the revolutionary Art movement International Situationist (from 1958 to 1960), led by Guy Debord, between others. Asger Jorn was there as well. This part of his life is really important to understand his work New Babylone.

The International Situationists were influenced by Marxist thinking and wanted to end the class society and the merchandise dictatorship. Their thinking is well explained in the book Society of Spectacle Guy Debord wrote in 1967. Guy Debord is an important character to understand New Babylon because in 1956, he theorizes the Derive in his text La theorie de la derive.


One or several people experiencing the Derive are renouncing, for a laps of time more or less important, to the reasons to move and to act they generally know…

– Guy Debord, Theorie de la derive, 1956



Image used for the cover of one of
Society of Spectacle editions


New Babylone was supposed to be called Deriville. It is a utopian city in which the defaults of capitalism (and of society of spectacle) does not exist anymore. In this sens, it fits very well in the Tabula Rasa theme.



Constant NieuwenhuysNew Babylone


3. Tabula Rasa


Even though the history and works of Constant and Kawakubo aren’t similar, they work in different fields, different puposes and connections are hard to find, we see that in those both particular works, some interesting aspects can be joined.


The first aspect is the use of architecture thinking for works that are not only architectural. Kawakubo, in Ensemble, thinks the garment as a construction in space, which means that she works with the object but also with the void it creates. Ensemble is a garment created using architecture.

Constant tries to build an utopian city, he has no choice but using architecture (he also made some beautiful models of New Baby- lone). The sketch we are talking about can also be seen as a piece of Art because the city was never built, it was only a big project that, I think, even Constant himself did not think he would see become real. New Babylon is a piece of Art using architecture.


The second aspect is related to the idea of Tabula Rasa. As we saw, Constant relation to it is quite obvious, he wants to built a new city for a new kind of human. In other words start everything again.

Kawakubo, in her garment, tries to challenge our traditionnal idea of beauty and to find new aesthetic values. We saw in Ensemble that the garment becomes autonomous from the body form an can be seen as a sculpture too.



To be an artist, to not be an artist

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

John Baldessari


John Baldessari is  known for his dot pictures, pictures in which a dot is used to shift the meaning of the appropriated (for example from a magazine or newspaper) material. This is how he works in general, appropriating existing forms, like pages from magazines, scenes from famous movies, pictures that people take at famous scenery, that mostly relate to mass media or mass culture, then using minimal gestures to change the meaning of this material. One could say his art is visceral since there is no space for hands on work but only of plan executed.

ribbon-cutting21 john-baldessari-dotprint

John Baldessari belongs to a stream of artists that would rise to fame in the seventies, forming the last somewhat coherent group of artist that could be called a movement. This movement is designated the Pictures Generation and group artists like Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, David Salle, Robert Longo, Louise Lawler, Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman. All of these group up in America in a time were tv and mass media were omnipresent, and there art praxis is a reflection of this. Baldessari formed an central figure in this group as was the teacher of a big part of the artists to would grow up and become representatives of this group. Also was he one of the first to gain attention with a type of art that could not find in the categories of former times: Minimal Art, Conceptual Art and Institutional Critique.

Here are some links to a few of his movies:

John Baldessari teaching alphabet to a plant

John Baldessari singing the conceptual art manifesto


Christophe Coppens


I have chosen to work with Christopher Coppens, who is an Belgian accessory designer originally trained as an Theater director now to be Artist.

What’s interesting regarding Christope in the exhibition is that he works in an area between fashion and art, as he puts it himself, though he recently completely stopped his fashion career to make art, though his fashion brand was very successful including clients as Rihanna, the queen of Belgium and so on.

For me it’s meaningless to place his work in any of the boxes, he sure does walk on the line  for instance his hats morphs into human faces, handbags that are shaped like animals, a swan and a lamb to mention a few. Which quickly makes you start thinking in the veins of an artwork.

When he chose to become an artist full time, he shut down his fashion firm and left it in bankruptcy, i think it was to be taken serious as an artist and not to be viewed ”just” as a multidisciplinary craftsman,
It seems to me that CC is a material based craftsman first of all, with a vision for different materials, accessory designer or artist, the title to me does not seem to matter much, maybe it was important in CC steps towards feeling comfortable with his creations.
He felt that the fashion world he surrounded himself with had an unfriendly sphere towards the more artsy, folks were ready to spend money buying from Christophe Coppens: The Mad Hatter’s designs but only the products, the stories and the processes behind each piece did not matter(im sure it did to some).

The first exhibition from Coppens transition from designer to artist.
For the show Coppens destructed by different means most of his belongings, suits, furniture, credit cards and business files, a kind of ritual, which he then turned into different sculptures.
The exhibition consisted of sculptures which Coppens refers to as Mountains, made from ceramics primarily. A ongoing tendency in these pieces is that it seems that the ceramic material is being eaten by fabric, swallowing the shapes. A visual reflection upon his feelings around a conflict he seems to be caught in.



 It is a collection of inanimate objects, s stuffed animals or toys, that are viewed through the windows of a small house. A shop beside the house sells miniature versions of the objects (a method deployed to great profit by artists including Takashi Murakami).


No reference was an installation by CC, in which he questioned the origin of his profession as a accesories designer, going back to point zero without any references, hence the title. The installation consisted of 33 haute couture accesories, that were presented as work in process and during the opening hours he would work on the pieces, invite people to join(if you were handy enough) and invited the public backstage of the ”hectic” fashion world.



Christophe and John

We now turn to the final question, does it make any sense to put Christophe and John together in one room, under the banner of the Abject. This question should be answered negatively, and for many reasons. First of all does John Baldessari’s work not fit to the theme of the abject because his work doesn’t concern the abject, and if his works, taken out of context seems to deal with the abject in a superficial manner it is solely because he deals with the abject how it is represented in mass media. Second of all does Christophe’s work not fit the abject because the term the abject refers to something quite deep, and following the theories from which his notion stems, quite fundamental. To deal with this topic in a design manner changes it so much that we cannot speak of the abject any more in its original sense, it becomes funny, witty and superficial, it is just used as a tactic of Christophe Coppens to give his work some extra artificial layering that makes it appear as “art”.

Lastly to combine the two in one exhibition is quite senseless, they have no relation whatsoever: different background, different views, different approaches, different topics. We can sum it up by saying that the noon of the artists relate to the abject, nor to each other.


                John Baldessari - Teeth (Tanden)  No References (2008)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


jan et willliam

Jan Slothouber is a Dutch architect and designer who often teamed up with his colleague William Graatsma who had the same background. We could also call them artists… Indeed, their status isn’t so clear. They both have been trained as architects working for the DSM (Dutch State Mines) in which they had the kind of privileged position to be very free in their buildings and creations. This way they could develop their interest : cubic constructions.
Considering the art movement of the time (i.e Cobra) as too elitist,they were much more interested to work with CUBE a simple, basic and humble shape, easy to reach for everybody. Also, working with such a basic and geometrical shape opens a lot of possibility and a much bigger diversity of work than an already complicated shape, usable only in a certain context.

According to this view on the Art Scene, they liked also to qualify themselves as « anonymous » and to work around social issues. But, they became famous when the Stedelijk Museum asked them to do an exhibition called Four Sides: Size, Shape, Colour, Letter (Vier Kanten: maat, vorm, kleur, letter). From this exhibition started a big enthusiasm around them, including lots of exhibitions and presentations, such as the Venice Biennial from 1970. [x]


Starting this period they built the Centre for Cubic Constructions (CCC) for which they are very famous. But a few years later, when they’ve been asked to design stamps in favor of children charity, and they used their now famous style to give those stamps value, a lot of people were very skeptic regarding this choice : Slothouber and Graatsma were indeed judged too « avant grade » not accessible enough for the average people. Which is exactly for what they were fighting against.




Richard Artschwager is an American sculptor and painter. He Studied Science and Mathematics. After studying he worked as a cabinet-maker. He got to be pretty successful with his furniture untill his studio and all his contents was destroyed by a fire in 1958. After this he started to work more as an artist, this was in the time that abstract expressionism influenced the arts.[x]

After the 60’s his work is mostly pop- minimal- and conceptual art.
His work had a dichotomy between painting and sculpture, abstraction and representation, industrial manufacture and hand craftsmanship. The works are on one side sculptures and on the other hand pictures of objects. His craftsmanship for making furniture enabled him to make artworks with an identity and function that brings subject materiality, form and space into a balanced combination. Artschwager experimented with basic forms and materials, for example in his work Handle (1962), a handrail shaped in to a frame. The work is simultaneously pictorial and sculptural. Via an utilitarian and aesthetic approach he creates works that emphasize space.

In 1963 Artschwager starts to work with Formica, a new material, synthetic laminate, which was used a lot in furniture making because it was cheap and resilience. Artschwager: “It was Formica which touched it off. Formica, the great ugly material. the horror of the age, which i came to like suddenly because i was sick of looking at all this beautiful wood.” For Artschwager the Formica is a picture of a piece of wood. If you take that and make something out of it, than you have an object. But its a picture of something at the same time, its an object. By covering box-shaped plates with Formica in different colours and textures he creates a composition of domestic objects. In this way he pushes a painting in to three dimensions. mirror/mirror – table/table (1964) and later on triptych II (1967)

table 1964

mirror-mirror-table-table-1964_800 Table and Chair 1963-4 by Richard Artschwager 1923 - 2013



This research is about the differences between art and design, we compare an artist and a design couple that both had their artworks in the exhibition ‘Setting the Scene’ at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum. Both of our artists/designers shared the room themed by scale. To which extent is this the right theme to connect them to?

Scaling down is used in architecture to present large designs for building projects in a manageable format, as a floor plan or a scale model. Design and art also use scale models as way of crystallizing and communicating ideas and research. They can be used to experiment freely with form, scale, material, and details – after all a model does not always have to have a ratio of one to one in the real world.

Scaling up or down need not always be a practical solution; it may be and end in itself. A functional object can be made dysfunctional by enlarging it, reducing it or making it from unconventional material. Deviating from the human scale changes an object’s relationship with the human body. And if you enlarge a recognizable pattern far enough it transforms into an abstract structure of its own accord. The surrounding space is also a factor: you see things fundamentally differently when you see them from a distance or stand very close to the object. Scale changes one’s view of things.



We think that in Artschwagers work scale isn’t a central point. The alienating effect of modifying scale, is something that Arschwager achieves via material and playing with assumptions. The way he works is different but the result has similar aspects. The work in the exhibition, Counter III, is probably the only work that has a different proportion, but we think his works more relate to form and space. A form that is recognizable for his works is the cube, which is a central shape as well in the works of Slothouwer en Graatsma, our artists relate more in form than in scale. Indeed they’re using the cube for its simplicity and thus the diversity of composition it offers. Slothouber and Graatsma are then able to play endlessly with scale. The cube can be the piece in itself, as well as an essential element (like an atom) to build a bigger form not necessarily with a cube shape. The cube can be the final object or the substance of the object.



There is a clear difference shown between art and design that also matches the common view on this distinction, the works of the artist are not for use even though they look like in first sight, the works of the designer are based on shapes that are not immidiatly recognisble as domestic objects.



Living on the edge of a chair

Monday, June 1, 2015



Lie van der WerfGaetano Pesce Green Street Chair 1984

Gaetano Pesce (1939) was an Italian architect and product designer who reconciled his interests in the fine arts with design in the 1960’s. Pesce, like many of his fellow contemporaries associated with Radical Design, sought design solutions that did not conform to the standardized forms associated with mass manufacture and mass consumption. His works challenge the commonly known concept of a chair, playing with the border of sculpture and objects of daily life that belong to the design world. Pesce continued to play a prominent role in progressive design circles over the following decades, placing greater emphasis on architecture in the 1990s. His multi- and interdisciplinary work known for experimenting with new materials and resin, which has become his signature material, was celebrated in an exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1996.


Lie van der Werff (1962) graduated in 1992 at the Royal Academy of Arts in Rotterdam and in 1994 at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. She was part of a group of sculptors that brought back the figurative in art and started using natural materials again. Recognizable shapes from animals and humans were reintroduced. This went against the sculptures made at that time, when sculptures mostly consisted from abstract and geometric forms made from industrial materials. Van der Werff makes use of the fictive story behind textile and applies her findings to her imaginary animals. Next to textile she also uses wood and clay to translate her ideas into reality. Looking at her work on her website, her work seems highly theatrical. She is a bit as an Alice in Wonderland, who wears dresses that are too small and hangs out with fictive animals.




How often do we stop and think about the hook we hang our coat on, or the knife we use to butter our bread? Our daily life is a succession of assumptions and presuppositions. We are not always aware of the multitude of shapes and objects we surround ourselves with day in and day out.

Form and function are seamlessly linked in our minds: trousers belong on our legs and a door hinges vertically, not horizontally. By contrast, when an artist or designer alters the form of such an easily recognizable everyday object, takes something away or changes the context in which it functions, the ingrained meaning of the object is subverted.

description in Setting a Scene at the Boijmans van Beuningen


An artificial connection

We started our research based on the connection made by the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum. In the exhibition of Setting the Scene the following questions were asked: What are the differences between design and the visual arts? And how far apart are they?

When we walked into the theme room assigned to us at the museum, we quite quickly chose our subject of interest. In the room we saw a chair that looked like a sculpture and two chairs that looked exactly like chairs but weren’t meant to sit on. We were immediately interested in this combination between the work of Gaetano Pesce (designer) and Lie van der Werff (artist).

There was something interesting about the chair from Pesce, because although we clearly saw that it was a chair, it looked very sculptural. Nevertheless you could see that the user was taken into consideration, there was no doubt where to sit. But material wise the designer was working on the boundaries of design. The eight thin legs under the seat of the chair almost made it look mechanical, almost like it could walk. The fine arts approach of the material (metal, glass fiber and polyester) lifts the chair from being ‚just another designed chair’. This Green Street chair is a result of Pesce’s research of the chair-ness within the chair.

In this exhibition under this theme, the chair makes perfect sense. Pesce’s chair raises the question of how far can you go with the idea of a chair? When is something still recognizable as a chair?

Looking at the chairs of Van der Werff that caught our attention, on the contrary, there are no undefined shapes involved. She used the archetype of a chair and without obeying the rules of design, she transformed it into a dysfunctional object. By processing the wood in her own way she made the chairs unable to sit on, changing them into sculptures. Through the processing she changes the design object into personal sculptures, changing their history, giving them a story and (probably) makes the viewer wonder what happened and to whom they belonged to. Van der Werff’s chairs raise the question of how long can you chop before the chair collapses? How long can you chop until the chair is not a chair anymore? When does it lose its original identity? How can another form arise through transforming an object?  But looking at her work in general, these chairs are the only possible work of her oeuvre that would fit this theme.

The work of Pesce and Van der Werff are as far apart as can be, not only looking at the chairs they made. They are not from the same time, not from the same country, not from the same discipline and never use the same materials or even use a concept that is alike. She is a lover of natural materials and colors, lives in her imaginary world and uses herself as part of her art. He, with a love for bright colors, is always looking how far he can go with materials and shapes to disten himself and his work from reality, while keeping it playful. We have to conclude that she only fits this Form theme with these chairs she made in 1992, whereas he would fit the theme with more chairs of his hand, whilst the theme of the room is also the research in his work.

So when the function is taken away, we can apply only the idea of the contemplative concept of an object. Where does design become fine arts? And where does fine arts become design? Should the distinction still be made?
To keep the answer as applied to the now as possible, we can talk from our own position as art students. We are from a generation of designers and fine artists that graduate at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy with a diploma that doesn’t make a distinction between the two practices. So the fact that it is changing inside the art schools means that the distinction will disappear more and more in the future. So, let’s mingle.


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