She's currently focused on introducing a model of making clothing that's better suited to her personally. The high point of this approach so far is her project 'JOIN Collective Clothes' (JOIN), where clothing is made collectively. She explains, 'As a designer, I don't want to be an island – I'd much rather involve other professional and non-professional creators in the process of designing and making clothing.' Because of this, she's deliberately seeking a different kind of hierarchy.
Anouk refers to JOIN as a 'manual' – a guidebook for a modular clothing system, which is available online and offline as an open-source system. She says, 'I see this manual as an invitation to everyone to start working on alternatives to “fast fashion”. This methodology challenges professional designers, yet at the same time it's accessible to people who have never been involved in making clothes before.'
JOIN is playful, inclusive and collective. You can think of it as a modern form of quilting, where four different parts of a garment (top / J, sleeve / O, trouser leg / I, skirt / N) are each made by someone else, and then later assembled to create a single piece of clothing. Anouk calls it 'playing with material and form'. Another important point: the material that's used is either donated or 'leftovers', because that part of the process has also been carefully considered.
So far, she's organized four workshops at a variety of locations throughout the Netherlands at institutions like De Appel in Amsterdam and Museum Arnhem. According to Anouk, 'If you experience for yourself that making a sleeve takes a full day, chances are you'll be more critical when you want to buy something that's mass-produced.' She's also presented JOIN to seven different (fashion) designers and asked them if they could make an article of clothing using the modular system of JOIN Collective Clothes.
With this approach, Anouk Beckers is also bringing her own position as a designer into question, saying: 'I'm making the first move, but the physical process and end result are completely open. My design method playfully responds to fashion as a system by offering a different perspective and starting a conversation.' For example, they're often asked who the makers are behind the clothes, and how the value of our clothes is determined. How do we decide if something is ugly or pretty? Or what is the relationship between the designer, the maker and the garment? The beauty of the collective collection isn't only found in the physical outcome, but also in the process behind it. She says, 'In my eyes, that's exactly what determines the final value of the clothing in my project. Something of value is being created throughout the entire process. Because of that, it's always beautiful; it simply can't be ugly. It's very different from a product from the fast-fashion circuit.'
Text: Jessica Gysel
Historically, people have always responded to new technologies by posing new ethical questions. It seems like the development of ethical principles is by definition lagging behind the development of technological objects. With his research, Arif Kornweitz investigates where the boundary lies between ethics and technology, and how it's connected to the practice of design. What happens if we view ethics as an interface for using technology?
Arif completed his bachelor's degree in literary theory, conflict studies and communication science, and afterwards, earned his master's degree in conflict resolution and governance and political science at the University of Amsterdam. For his graduate thesis, he conducted research on humanitarian organisations that use surveillance technology and the resulting data as evidence of human rights violations. But after being published, this data is still difficult to verify. In addition, there's the question of the role of technology as an 'objective transmitter'. Evidence often only has meaning once someone constructs a corresponding narrative.
As a teacher at the designLAB department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam, Arif Kornweitz translated his current research into lessons about objects without clear boundaries, and the fluid notion of objects. In addition, he gave several performance lectures as an expression of his research, for example about the phenomenon of 'function creep', in which data is used for purposes other than what was originally intended, or when the function of a technological object is inadvertently expanded. The methods used by humanitarian organisations and the data they collect are both susceptible to function creep.
Text: Manique Hendricks
As human beings, we're used to looking at technological advances from only a human perspective. As a result, nearly everything we design is focused on ourselves. Arvid & Marie want to nuance this unbalanced worldview. With this in mind, they develop artistic and alternative concepts to bring the general public into action and encourage them to think more critically. Research on the relationships between people and technology is central to their approach. In many cases, it leads to tangible objects, such their autonomous soft drink machine, called Symbiotic Autonomous Machine (SAM). Without any human intervention, SAM is capable of managing the production process and determining the price of each drink.
Arvid & Marie are currently based in China, were there's clearly a different view on technology. In general, Asians are much more receptive to technologic developments. In cooperation with a Chinese partner, they're developing a massage chair equipped with artificial intelligence and expressive capabilities, called the 'Full Body Smart Automatic Manipulator'.
Especially if they're developing interactive machines, the power of expression can't be lacking. That's why the use of sound is very important for their projects – it's the means to give shape to the emotional charge of interactivity. The 'voice' of the machine is essential for the ultimate experience! According to the two designers, 'We're working on a wide range of projects, but we often return to sound. The implementation of sound in our technological designs is something that we frequently do for long-term projects. In the shorter term or in the interim, we can present our research in a musical way – kind of like informative concerts. Under the name Omninaut, we're compiling an album based on (video) recordings, together with a diverse group of artists.'
In addition to designing, Arvid & Marie want to make the ongoing debate surrounding artificial intelligence more democratic. At the moment, the development of artificial intelligence is still primarily the domain of larger tech companies. They explain, 'If real artificial intelligence is created, there are so many related ethical concerns that we should be deciding on together, instead of it happening behind closed doors, far away from the general public. Everyone should be able to contribute! On one hand, we're embracing progress, and on the other hand, we're scared that technology will end up controlling us. Why should we assume that? Let's give the machines a chance to “get to know” us, and vice versa. It could allow people and technology to find a way to co-exist, and could provide the basis for a kind of social contract for further developments.'
Arvid & Marie also characterise their work as 'design for non-humans'. Because of their design background, they are used to using tools to design different objects. At design studio Arvid & Marie, they rely on technology as the 'tool' to question, understand and shape the society of tomorrow.
Text: Giovanni Burke
Tomas bases his work on contradictions which he uses to develop his design methodology. For example, he juxtaposes outdoor space and indoor space, because in addition to shelter, the function of a building is to mark that transition. But what did that relationship traditionally mean, and what does it mean today? It doesn't always have to be about enhancing the contrast, Tomas explains, but can also be about giving more depth to how we typify the relationship between these two extremes.
'What I design doesn't need to be functional architecture. It's more like an exploration of what architecture could be. The development of this 'new architecture' isn't limited to considering the aforementioned contradictions, but is also driven by the emergence of new kinds of building materials. What does it mean for the shape and possibilities of future buildings?'
Using this approach, Tomas makes a series of models, ranging from a multifunctional wall (with a built-in table) to a gigantic balloon that can stretch across a festival stage. You can see the latter as architecture, as well as an art project. He often alternates between experimental projects and more commercial assignments. Here too, he tries to emphasize the value of the design. His intrinsic motivation lies in the fact that the models or spaces he designs can encourage a wider audience to think about what new forms of architecture might look like.
Because it takes so much expertise to construct a building, for architects, collaboration is inevitable. As soon as you start talking about materials, you need craftspeople, because they have more knowledge about the products and how to use them. But you can also use collaborations like these to make progress at a smaller, more experimental scale, says Tomas. This will allow you to take larger steps forward and challenge each other.
One of the most important drivers for Tomas Dirrix is to make people more aware of the magic! He sums it up by saying, 'We should have a sense of wonder about the world we live in, seeing the ordinary as strange, or the other way around. It would be nice if we could once again appreciate the experience of a building.'
Text: Giovanni Burke
In his work, Bastiaan gives existing products a new function by merging them to create a new object or sculpture. He makes 3D scans of objects or parts of objects, which he then adds to an already extensive digital database. This is the source from which he draws to generate new objects that he breathes life into with a 3D printer. Like a reaction to an action, he puts things in the computer and then extracts new things from it. From physical to digital to physical.
Where most colleagues start with an idea or concept, Bastiaan de Nennie starts with a product that he scrutinizes and translates into an idea. His signature is characterized by bright colours and repetitive forms that recur in different ways, such as the spinning wheel of a mincing machine, or a 3D scan of his own feet. Some shapes are clearly recognisable, while others are completely abstracted in neon colours. Physical objects are always both the starting and the end point. In between, various, often digital, adjustments are made on the basis of personal intuition. Craftsmanship and the use and addition of more traditional materials such as clay also find their way into this process.
As a boundless thinker and passionate designer, De Nennie is immensely interested in applying new technology or techniques within his practice, for which he coined the term 'phygital', a combination of physical and digital. As he puts it himself, he wants to stand with 'one leg in the present' with his 'other leg in the future'. His aims are to professionalize and work on his online presentation, as well as enter into new collaborations. Ultimately, he would also like to recycle his own work, for example by melting old existing sculptures or products to create a new work.
Text: Manique Hendricks
'It has become impossible to understand reality without understanding contemporary technology, especially imaging techniques, as they play a big part in constituting reality itself. For instance, how algorithms are used to forecast who is more likely to become a criminal. Or how can a computer notice the difference between fighting and hugging. Or what is 'normal' and what not. And how these 'facts' are used as a ground to colonize and manipulate.' 'For me it's not about paranoia, but uncovering hidden structures. I see myself as a 'visual anthropologist', Daria explains. An excerpt from Field of Vision, Daria's latest digital essay: 'In contemporary reality of abundance of images and signals that are being constantly generated, the concept of vision and the degree of visibility become ever more relevant. […] I am interested in juxtaposing the two meanings of the word 'vision', as in the 'power of seeing' and the 'power of anticipating what will or may come to be” in relation to computer vision (and other related technologies), through a prism of the everlasting dichotomy of human and machine, natural and artificial.'
Daria Kiseleva mostly works with the mediums of film, critical writing, printed and web publications. 'Even if I'm interested in the various formats of digital culture, I have a real fondness for printed matter.' Together with graphic design duo Mevis & Van Deursen she worked on catalogues, posters and signage for artists and institutions, like Documenta 14 in Kassel and Museum Krefeld. Currently she is a research member at the 'The Shock Forest Group' with Nicolás Jaar, as part of the 2d chapter at Het Hem. 'I believe it is our responsibility, as makers, users and unwillingly unpaid labourers, to study, expose, hack and play with mechanisms of production, representation and consumption to expose their hidden mechanisms.'
Text: Jessica Gysel
Darien first encountered algorithms in his exploration of generative systems for composition, but he did not see them simply as convenient tools for creative output. His desire to understand how they functioned led him from sound to visual graphics, where the patterns created by each algorithm were easier to analyse. Eventually, his parallel experimentation in both media came together in the form of generative audiovisual works, less as finished compositions than as immersive live performances. But it also drew him deeper into the field of coding and computer algorithms. He was increasingly preoccupied with the technology 'behind the scenes', the cultural impact of artificial intelligence, and the questions it raised for contemporary society more broadly.
In that vein, Darien's recent work has investigated machine learning (ML). The topic of ML is viewed today with mixed fascination and fear, as it permeates through our social infrastructure from facial recognition and song recommendations to hiring processes and policing. It also is the basis for fantastic, if unlikely speculations about sentience and creativity in machines. However, there is an enormous vacuum of knowledge about how ML works among the people who are affected by it in innumerable ways every day. Over time, Darien Brito's motivations have become more pedagogical. He does not want to show the end product of a learning process. He wants to show instead how the computer learns.
But to do so, he needed to teach himself how to write an ML algorithm from scratch, and to become familiar with advanced mathematical formulas. He began with a classifier, which determines if an input belongs to a certain class or not, and trained it using a dataset that he also made himself. The outcome is a library of ML algorithms for the software Touch Designer. Darien also shares his hard-earned, applied knowledge through tutorials, with the ultimate goal of empowering digital users to better grasp the technology available to them, and to use their critical and ethical judgment.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
As a child, Wesley de Boer often sat in front of the television for hours on end and preferred to watch cartoons. While he was being sucked into the TV, he fantasized about the possibilities of the endless, colourful worlds in which the cartoons take place, and he built sets with home-made puppets and action figures to mimic these non-existent environments. The born Rotterdammer still finds inspiration for his current practice in cartoon-like figures and environments and the creation of new worlds outside the existing reality. In addition, social media is a source of inspiration for him and he is particularly interested in the online representation and expression of identity.
With Studio Elvis Wesley, De Boer builds a personal and recognizable form language – characterized by bright colours and remarkable, often artificial forms – and at the same time he refers to pop culture and fictional characters and their representation. De Boer sees his work as a cross-pollination of different techniques and disciplines in which Elvis represents the connecting factor. De Boer not only produces a great deal of free work with Studio Elvis Wesley, but also carries out many commissions for various clients, ranging from festivals to museums. These commissions are expressed in various media including animation, sculpture and photo campaigns, but also products such as lamps and wallpaper.
Thanks to the Fund, Wesley de Boer is building the world in which Elvis Wesley operates, project by project. He would very much like to extend the living environment of his alter ego to become an immersive experience where everyone can feel what it's like to be Elvis Wesley for a moment. Between tropical flowers that appear to be made of red, purple, yellow and green tubes of light, brightly coloured monster trucks thunder past cities that are made up of dark cubes with fluorescent patterns and are inhabited by flying drones. In this wonderful place between fantasy and reality, visual art and design merge and boundaries between animation, installation, object and the digital are blurred.
Text: Manique Hendricks
For Gino, it felt like landing in a warm bath. 'We share the same ideas, and although we operate as a collective, the collective itself does not have a fixed profile and is effectively the sum of our individual practices. The four do share a workspace and also take on larger projects together in order to fulfil their common passion: exploring what fashion can be, more than just designing the wearable garment.
They started out on the traditional path: a first collection, a showroom in Paris twice, and two shows during Amsterdam Fashion Week. But the fashion circuit didn't really appeal so much: 'too many designers, too many collections, too many clothes'. During one of the showrooms, the collective organized a subsequent exhibition and was so satisfied with it that they decided to explore the more autonomous side of fashion in greater depth. For Gino, this meant working in 2D, 'working from collages, uncompromising in form', and then translating it into three dimensions and searching for relevant links between fashion and body.
In 2017, Das Leben am Haverkamp carried out an intervention at the Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg. The reason for this was a makeover of the fashion spaces and the question of how a new generation of visitors to the museum looks at centuries-old objects that they have often never seen before. Das Leben am Haverkamp developed a new series of objects: clothing, but also accessories and utilitarian items. As a starting point, they took 40 objects from the collection that were randomly selected on the basis of a list. Every tenth visitor was given the task of describing the objects, without explicitly mentioning what the objects actually were. The collective then created the 40 pieces, based on these descriptions, without actually having seen the original objects. The result was a large curiosity cabinet consisting of turquoise, red, yellow or pink objects – each designer had their own colour – such as an oversized fisherman's coat, a totem, a mask and a turquoise baby covered in golden balls. It also generated a colourful book with essays, documentation of the show and, in particular, numerous process images.
In his work, Gino Anthonisse is constantly in search of wonder, always from a different angle. At the moment, he is working a great deal with materials that are new to him, such as plaster, foam and ceramics, with the intention of inspiring viewers to come up with new ideas, to raise questions, and just to make the public think at all. In addition, he works one-and-a-half days a week at the art academy in The Hague, where he is an instructor at the textile and fashion workshop. 'I'm not a teacher, I don't assess students but I help them, and that's a good position for me.'
Text: Jessica Gysel
After graduating from the Design Academy Eindhoven's Information Design master's programme, she continued her personal practice along the course established by her thesis project, 'The Legal Status of Ice'. Beginning from the theme of international borders in the Arctic Ocean, her project grew to encompass a range of themes from legal frameworks, data collection, border politics, natural resources, and climate change. Due to the transdisciplinary relevance of her research, she has been invited to take part in a variety of exhibitions, from 'Broken Nature' at the Triennale di Milano to 'GEO–DESIGN: Alibaba' at the Van Abbemuseum.
Irene approaches her interests through a rigorous research process that involves historical, scientific, statistical, and technological investigations and a strong ethics about the responsible use of data sets. In her explorations, she often intersects with researchers who deal with critical information as non-designers. She sees great potential in collaboration with scientists and experts from other fields, especially where their urgent observations go unnoticed because they are poorly visualised or not visualised at all. In particular, she is focused on the climate crisis due to the misinformation and lack of understanding of the general public when confronted with conflicting theories, politicised legislation, isolated data points, and anecdotal experience. 'Our inability to collectively envision climate change as a systematic global phenomenon, rather than a series of isolated local events, may account for our general inaction or denial of our influence on the environment—and design could be a key framework for mobilisation.'
At the same time, Irene is highly conscientious of the designer's role in mediating data in tangible images or objects. Single data points or data sets have little meaning until they are layered with other kinds of data, and the content and aesthetic choices made in generating composite data visualisations have enormous repercussions on the interpretation of the viewer. In fact, her Arctic Ocean research indicates that maps themselves made borders possible. Her practice confronts both highly technical GIS software and subjective image-making, as in the gigantic inflated globe she made for 'GEO—DESIGN', with bright orange oceans and flipped orientation, with the South Pole on top. Irene Stracuzzi reveals the unacknowledged influence of the designer in the world order, as well as the need for a careful and informed approach to data.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
Every day he goes to work in his studio, which is full of cupboards, rough industrial material, glass bastions and of course chairs. Here, Job develops various objects that are located at the interface between industry and art. 'I'm always looking for an industrial find, something that can make a major impact. If I develop a new technique that gives the production of, for example, a piece of furniture more possibilities or more value can be attached to it, then I'm in my element.'
In addition to work that is more focused on art, Job also concentrates on producing for a somewhat larger audience. For example, he designed a wooden cabinet that he had pressed into steel, a fusion of industrial and natural materials. This process increases the decorative value and also the durability. The project, called 'Metal Skin Cabinet', inspired Job to start a new project in which he presses toy cars into an aluminium plate the size of a postcard. Through these and other collaborations with manufacturers, labels and galleries, he wishes to share his work more and more with the wider public in the future.
His projects are interlinked and develop as part of a larger organic and creative process. He does not only want to develop as a creative maker and 'brand'; Job also wants to follow a 10-day 'silent retreat' meditation course to learn how to channel his energy better. 'My own development is central this year, and I am enjoying learning new meditation techniques to achieve the right focus for my projects. But I really don't have to go all the way to the Far East for that', says Job with a grin.
Asked about his ultimate goal as a creative maker, Job van den Berg indicates that this goal will gradually shift, but that he wants to focus on design that inspires and is remembered by people. 'I really do value the appreciation and freedom you enjoy as a well-known designer, but the impact of your work is nonetheless worth more valuable than fame.'
Text: Giovanni Burke
Johanna graduated in 2016 from the Graphic Design bachelor at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam with 'Lady Taxi', a project about a free of charge cab service for mainly elderly ladies. Inspired by Chantal Akerman's iconic 'Jeanne Dielemans' movie and its portrayal of a woman's limited space in our society, Lady Taxi became the informal starting point of her ongoing project '(Post-) Menopausal Graphic Design Strategies'. This project is dealing with the challenge to gain practical knowledge into how to develop and maintain a life-long graphic design practice while considering the issues of ageism, sexism and women's health. Life-long referring not only to lasting a full working life, but also to healthy, stimulating and safe working conditions. Some titles on the project's website speak for themselves: 'The Woman Destroyed', 'They Will Never Sell Vaginal Dryness', 'All that is left is the killing of time', 'Legacy in Typography'.
As collaboration is a crucial part of a feminist design practice, Johanna also works together with Elisabeth Rafstedt, under the name Rietlanden Women's Office. In this collaboration reading, writing and publishing together is a practice done two days per week. 'We want to work constructively and with lust in our work. Our focus is really on the texts we publish. We try to go deep into a text, read it over and over, and design through that reading'. In relation to their most recent issue of 'MsHeresies', they have been discussing topics such as social media activism, commodified feminism and the importance of looking towards history when questioning hegemonic structures. So far two issues were published, both investigating the topic of work and the possibilities of collaboration from a feminist perspective.
Johanna also has a weak spot for typography and fonts. 'I am trying to have a reckless approach towards type. This in an attempt at trying to redefine the idea of legacy in typography. Legacy referring to both the gendered (extremely male dominated) history and current state of type design, its concepts of divinity and harmony, as well as the physical aspects, which historically would imply hard labour in type foundries (with the likeliness of getting lead poisoning). Today one could consider the very real issue of working, or decaying, in front of a computer screen.'
Underneath of this all lays a manifesto-ish approach towards building a new design ethos. But in a recent interview, Rietlanden Women's Office problematise the easily commodified format of a manifesto: 'A point or statement from a manifesto is perfect for the social media version of activism (…) something we have come to see more and more as a problem. A text written today is old tomorrow—or even in a few seconds—in a busy, scrolling feed. This progress, this speed of things, is connected to consumerism and economic growth, and that goes for texts and images, too! But, in fact, we might even be going backwards—or in circles—as far as feminist 'progress' goes.'
Johanna confesses she's part of this work rat race as well, and is working and stressing too much. It seems symptomatic of this current system. Although she notices some forced progression. Recently she started to take a rest in the middle of the day. She thinks a rest can be very radical.
Text: Jessica Gysel
Jungmyung explores the aesthetics of emotion in 'Real-Time Realist', a self-initiated publication co-edited with Charlie Clemoes that draws connections between graphic designers, artists, and writers in relation to a single emotion in each issue. The idea for the publication arose when Jungmyung and Charlie, both artists in residence at WOW Amsterdam, started to discuss the emotional spectrum and the diagrammatical schema of various theorists, such as Robert Plutchik's wheel of eight primary emotions in different intensities and combinations. The first issue explored the branch going from amazement through surprise to distraction, while the next will take on ecstasy, joy, and serenity.
The magazine is a forum for Jungmyung to explore aspects of her design methodology and critical perspective that cannot be channeled into her professional career. In particular, she uses it to contextualise the meaning of her typefaces in noncommercial modes, and to offer others the chance to engage with her designs freely. The mainstream design discourse tends to acknowledge typography only in relation to branding, quoting vague claims about modern values and aesthetics. In contrast, Real-Time Realist fosters slow, contemplative, and dreamlike reflections on the typeface as a narrative voice.
It also allows Jungmyung to experiment with new ways of making, however imprecise or obscure. Eight years ago, she learned type design as a fixed sequence: first painting letters one by one with brushes, then scanning them, vectorising them, and refining the final geometry digitally. This standardised process seemed to subdue emotion, whereas she is drawn instead to design processes that invite emotional investment—like woodcut, a historical technique that associated the emotions of the craftsman with the letterform they were making. But contemporary digital techniques, typefaces, and interfaces have just as much potential for emotions, although the medium, speed, and physical and virtual social formations associated with computer interaction may encourage different emotions. In an era of constant and maximal communication, Jungmyung Lee's work is oriented towards the user's subconscious and emotional experience of the little-noticed medium of type.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
At Studio Knetterijs, the aesthetics, techniques, personal interests and ambitions of eight different illustrators come together. Within the collective, everyone has their own expertise and function, ranging from analogue printing techniques, such as risoprint and screen printing, to digital illustration techniques and the maintenance of the Studio Knetterijs webshop. Their underlying contrasts are what makes them into a multiform whole.
Thanks to the Fund, Studio Knetterijs has recently been able to work on three collective projects in the form of a 'zine'. The small publications are the result of an investigation into the possibilities and limits of the medium with a high 'do-it-yourself' level and at the same time an attempt to transcend this. By means of traditional techniques and new technological means, Knetterijs elevated the zine to a new kind of genre, inspired by interaction and a certain degree of playfulness.
'The Rottumereye Tragedy' is a mysterious detective story consisting of a rich file folder containing a variety of small books, prints, a leporello and a poster in different styles on different types of paper that together form the hints to solve the murder on the Wadden island of Rottumeroog. The second zine, called 'The Octagon Pentalogy' is a multidimensional experience consisting of five audio tracks about adventure in space. Every audio track, recorded by American voice actors, is different. By combining the different audio tracks with the printed zine, five different narratives are created. All Studio Knetterijs publications are made by hand and are sold in small editions through their own web shop or at trade fairs. For their most recent project and third zine 'Mushrooms & Magic, an interactive odyssey', Knetterijs is currently working with a programmer who converts layered drawings by the illustrators into a digital interactive zine, in which the reader can influence the course of the story by making choices themselves.
Text: Manique Hendricks
Born and raised in Athens, Kostas studied engineering on the Greek island of Syros, at the only design school in Greece. Getting a base in mostly theory, he decided to get a more creative and practical formation by doing an internship at designer Nacho Carbonell in Eindhoven. 'Design in Greece is very different than in the Netherlands'. He liked it so much, that he stayed for over seven years, while taking up his master studies at the Design Academy. During his first semester tutor Maarten Baas give an assignment to design a lamp. 'I asked myself, what is a lamp? A lamp is a light bulb. It's glass and metal from stone. I combined the different materials, to create a lightbulb.'
He cites Robert Rauschenberg as a big inspiration, especially how he approached material from a conceptual point of view; thinking about the artistic humility of material. 'Anything can function as material. Once you embrace this principle, the possibilities are endless.' He implements material on two equally important axes: the primitive and the high-tech. This idea is very present in all his crea-tions, where he combines old and new production techniques; a mixture of valuable and valueless materials such as bronze, ceramics, embroidery but also melted old plastic chairs. 'At the basis of it all lays the idea of a non-hierarchy in material. It all comes from the earth. Gold is more precious than mud, but for the planet it's the same. The concept of value is a human construction.'
At the moment, he's working with the Carpenters Workshop Gallery on a couple of new projects. He already made a daybed ('Her') and a chandelier ('Jupiter') and is currently developing a low table and a bookshelf. 'I started making objects by the end, I'm scaling things down now, arriving to more easy pieces. But process is equally difficult. I'm trying to include more modern periods, and keep the ma-terials in a certain logic'.
He's currently moving back to Athens, to be closer with his family. 'I'm starting the second beginning of my professional life, and hope I can create the same feeling of community that I experienced in Eindhoven.' His cites his father as his biggest inspiration. 'He was a maker; he had a very special way of doing things. It's in my DNA. When you're a good maker, you cook good, you clean good, you put attention to detail, that's crucial to me.'
Asked if he ever takes time off he cites one of his tutors, artist Gijs Assman who said you have to keep living your life while trying to work. So in the weekends he goes sailing, one of the perks of be-ing back in Greece.
Text: Jessica Gysel
'Rethinking the Absorption Capacity of Urban Space', her final project for her master's in Urbanism at TU Delft, contains advanced strategies for sustainably integrating migrants into the host country's society. 'Migration is often perceived as a temporary phenomenon. It's handled with short-term container housing, located outside the city centre. There's a lack of policy regarding sustainable accommodation. But mixing these vulnerable groups with the existing population is of huge importance', Lena explains. For her thesis, she investigated alternative, more inclusive forms of housing, which focused on the use of public space. The Overamstel prison complex, known colloquially as the ''Bijlmerbajes', is a good example of this, and was a suitable location for implementing the spatial interventions that Lena had developed. From August 2016 to February 2018, the former prison served as a reception centre for thousands of asylum seekers. Next to the Bijlmerbajes, there was a shipping container village for international students. They shared the same living space, yet the two groups lived completely separately from each other.
The strategies and spatial interventions she has developed could also be rolled out in other locations in Europe, such as Athens. Lena has visited the Greek city, which is also dealing with migration issues, several times. She wants to bring these problems to the surface through in-depth interviews with a variety of migrants and Greeks. Using the information gathered during this process, she will then focus on suitable design solutions. Once her ongoing research in Athens is finished, she plans to collect her findings in a book.
The ideal inclusive city is something that Lena Knappers will continue to sink her teeth into for the time being. She's not only interested in the topic of migration, but also the use of public space and the persistent inequality that seems to go along with it. Because she also works part time, and collaborates with municipalities, housing associations and organisations like the COA (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers) as part of her job, there are plenty of shared interests and opportunities to continue her research. She says, 'In The Hague, I'm working on large, complex projects with many different stakeholders and interests. These projects require time and coordination, but at the same time, they teach you to look at things from different perspectives. When I'm working on my own research and design project, I have complete freedom and can use my imagination to reveal creative alternatives.'
Text: Giovanni Burke
For Berends, varia has offered a testing ground to implement her design philosophy, which involves using only free, libre and open source software (FLOSS) and independent digital infrastructures that do not profit from their users, collect their data, enforce protective copyright, or make their code inaccessible. Over time, varia has evolved to host its own server and communication and organisation system, including chat program and communal calendar. On their website, they offer their free software, store project documents for collaborators as well as outside viewers, and write posts sharing the technical and conceptual knowledge they have acquired in the process. They also publish their notes from live workshops, meetings, or conferences using etherpad, a real-time collaborative editor.
One of varia's five members with managerial responsibilities, Manetta develops her ideas about what a graphic design practice and collaborative working practice could be today. As in the craft guilds of centuries past, the outcome of the design process is just one element of a larger culture, which also encompasses tool-making, social inclusivity, acquiring knowledge hands-on, and sharing knowledge with peers. This broad approach is fostered at varia through open events like 'Relearn', a collective learning experiment and summer school where teachers and students come together as equals. In this way, Manetta believes that professional practice can sustain the curiosity, energy, and enjoyment experienced in design education.
These qualities resonate throughout her personal work as well. Her cyber/technofeminist cross-reader, part of the 2019 exhibition Computer Grrrls at la Gaîté Lyrique in Paris and MU in Eindhoven, is a collection of manifestos in which technology and feminism are intertwined, spanning from 1912 to the present. At the same time, it is also a tool that identifies the linguistic connections between the manifestos, using the TF-IDF (Term Frequency Inverse Document Frequency) algorithm, and allows users to read across multiple manifestos at once by extracting quotes featuring the same word. The cross-reader also includes a detailed explanation of how the algorithm works, using terminology that non-coders can understand. Finally, it explores the language of manifestos, revealing the importance of communication in movements for societal change. Manetta Berends models a design practice in which critical thinking, activism, and social accountability underscore every facet from aesthetic choices to pragmatic obligations.
Mirte is particularly preoccupied with the Dutch landscape, at various scales, and the ways in which it has been shaped by politicians, industrialists, and architects, as well as eccentric individuals with a captivating vision. Her film 'The Dutch Mountain', for instance, departs from Dutch cyclist Thijs Zonneveld's dream to build a 2,000-metre-high mountain in the Netherlands, and imagines it in concrete detail through seamlessly edited footage from different locations in the Dutch landscape. A voiceover describes the mountain as a 'fait accompli', quoting expert scientists that she consulted about the environmental implications of the project. Through split screen composition, she confronts idealistic visions with banal necessities, like bike lanes or pedestrian paths, and overt artifice, like zoos or amusement parks.
In her research, Mirte contemplates the tension between humanity's power to sculpt the terrain to its will, on one hand, and its affinity for romantic or technoutopian concepts of nature, on the other. 'Territory of the Beings', a recent commission from KAAN Architecten, could be described as a nature documentary about the modern office worker in their open-plan habitat. Her film analyses the strategies (both surreal and cynical) used in contemporary architecture to foster impressions of freedom, wellbeing, and personal space in their human occupants. At the same time, it borrows the aesthetics of architectural photography to emphasise the challenge of adjusting to the airbrushed, optimised utopia of the modern workplace.
Her latest project, meanwhile, takes on the working landscape of industrial agriculture in the Netherlands. Interviewing farmers, she is rethinking the iconography of futurism in light of the anecdotes she has collected, including machine hacking, flower high-rises, artificial lighting, and robot gardeners and asparagus growers. While she embraces fiction and poetic license as creative tools, Mirte van Duppen is still conscious of her rhetorical influence as a designer and editor. She seeks out the individuals with direct knowledge about urgent topics and gives space to their perspectives, which often have little resemblance to the grotesque fantasies popularised in the mainstream media. She is equally critical towards humanity's hubristic manipulation of nature as towards fatalistic or alarmist narratives as dramatic devices, and reveals the complete technological saturation of every element of our society, no matter how "natural" it may appear. Her practice aims to inspire fascination, contemplation, and informed action in her audience.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
Lucas and his friend were not visiting simply as spectators. They wanted to engage with the monks as craftsmen, and spent two months living alongside them and learning how to make rockets. Meanwhile, they were joined by a few curious filmmakers, and spontaneously the idea arose to make a documentary - something none of them had done before. They began to collect footage, taking a wide view on the rocket's role as an instigator of temporary social liberties, as well as a symbol of the farmers' dependency and vulnerability in relation to the yearly monsoon. They also followed another tangent into the oral history surrounding the village's main Buddhist abbot, recently deceased, who was famed for his powers in black magic.
For Lucas, the rocket is an object that cuts through seemingly distant cultures, topics, and histories. A rocket carrying a nuclear bomb could destroy the world, but a rocket could also save humans from extinction by carrying them to another planet. Essentially a flying cylinder propelled by a chemical reaction, this single object is the vehicle for a multiplicity of technological dreams, cultural beliefs, political conflicts, and existential fears. This diversity of meanings forms the basis for a series of documentary films, each chapter investigating a particular typology situated in a complex social context.
For example, Lucas explored the rocket as a weapon in Lebanon, collaborating with NGOs that work with refugee communities displaced from their homes by missiles and other tools of destruction. To approach the subject sensitively, Lucas took a more associative approach using personal narrative. He asked Syrian and Palestinian children to describe their memories of their old homes, and then reconstructed each memory through found archival footage, reflecting on the possibilities and paradoxes of cross-cultural empathy. In another chapter, he interviews doctoral researchers in Newcastle University to examine the rocket as a catalyst for debates about space law, colonisation and mining. While Lucas Muñoz Muñoz still works as a maker, he is also eager to challenge the expectations of how objects inspire and emerge from creative processes, and how research manifests in design practice.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
That's not too surprising for someone who grew up in Ruigoord, the free-spirited community outside Amsterdam that her grandparents helped found. She shares, 'My grandmother was one of the pivotal figures of Pink Monday, and I still wear her earring', a silver piece made up of three interlocking feminist symbols.
So far, she's created five collections, with names like '001 Mothers Nature is a Slut ', '002 Smell my Pheromones' and '004 Evolve Around Me'. The collections each have their own number, because Ninamounah deliberately decided not to work with the traditional fashion seasons. She's also made a few films, and her second, 'Hormones are my Master' has been nominated for several (fashion) film festivals.
She's currently working on a book and exhibition with Amsterdam-based photographer Paul Kooiker, and created a perfume with artist Anna Gray. She says, 'I like scents that serve as a warning to alert you that something is wrong, but are very attractive at the same time.' Ninamounah has a background in biology, and did a course on taxidermy while training to be a park ranger. After that, she ended up at the Rietveld Academie, first studying textiles, and eventually fashion. She often got into debates with her professors, but laughs and says that ultimately, it all worked out. She still occasionally does taxidermy – mostly dogs or cats from her friends. She still has quite a few in the freezer, but at the moment, is short on time.
As a child, Ninamounah and her parents survived a plane crash in Faro; they were planning to move to permanently to Portugal. She doesn't have any memory of it. After that, her mother took her on a trip around the world, which was of course formative for her. She's a survivor, and she likes strong personalities, a detail which is evident throughout her work. The collections may be different, but she often works with a mother pattern that helps shape their dominant character. A number of key pieces, such as the iconic body blazer and the fitted chaps fall into that category. These pieces return in every collection, albeit in a slightly different form. She thinks it's important to include both expensive as well as affordable items in every collection, but there isn't any over-simplified merchandise. She explains, 'Our merchandise is an integral part of the collection – it's not just a simple thing with a logo on it. I always include something special, like embroidery or something handmade.' She frequently works with natural materials; the leather is recycled and everything else comes from dead stock. It's not even an issue; it's just the reality. Besides that, everything is unisex, and it's all made in and around Amsterdam. According to Ninamounah, 'You can definitely do large-scale production here – there are so many possibilities. It does make the clothing more expensive, but I wouldn't do it any other way.'
Going forward, her greatest ambition is to remain independent and develop things at her own pace. She says, 'I'm rarely stressed. Even though I'm a super workaholic, I feel very supported by my family and friends.'
Text: Jessica Gysel
He takes a similar approach towards the materials he works with, from household objects like rotary fans, tennis balls, and tube lights to industrial components like three-phase motors. Through playful experiments, he pushes them to the point of collapse or failure in order to discover their limits—how fast can they spin, how much force can they absorb, how large can they be scaled up, how can they be hacked, and so on. At the borders of their functional integrity, these materials begin to change and transcend their normal qualities in everyday life. Philip identifies that moment as the expression of a unique character. He is then able to work with each character as a composer or director, putting it into a scripted context where it can perform its heightened function, and sometimes even auto-destruct as a dramatic finale.
As viewers, we perceive each character as a particular phenomenology through our various sensory organs, hearing vibrations as whirs, viewing refracted white light as a rainbow spectrum, or seeing moving parts as moiré patterns or solid shapes at certain speeds. Thus, Philip's artworks exist only as lived experiences where both the material components and the human observers play critical roles. As a result, there is always a degree of unpredictability. Philip describes the materials as having a life of their own, and his creative process can sometimes involve a fight for control, as the elements defy or confound his expectations.
In that sense, his practice links to twentieth-century experimental artists like John Cage or Hans Haacke, whose schematic compositions and real-time systems embraced contingency rather than predetermination. Likewise, they brought out the uncanny qualities and latent potentials in the everyday materials, technologies, and people that came together in their works. Fifty years later, Vermeulen extends this approach to new tools, including computer code, Arduino, sensors, 3D printing, and more. At the same time, he also captures the idiosyncrasies of soon-to-be obsolete technologies and the animated physicality of mechanical assemblies. In an era when sensory effects are increasingly produced from within the black box of the computer, when viewers have no understanding of their process or influence on their outcome, Philip Vermeulen's art can be read as an act of resistance.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
Pim's first foreign experience with the aim of making design more meaningful brought Pim to Nepal, where, together with his partner Luc van Hoeckel, he researched the use of medication. They lacked substantive knowledge of medicines, but as designers they were trained to provide practical solutions to problems. So they came up with a number of concepts to simplify medication and its use by means of design and imagination. Many Nepalese people in the outlying areas are actually illiterate. During an internship in Malawi, they later realized a collection of healthcare furniture, based entirely on locally available materials and techniques. With these two projects, the men, who are also known under the name Superlocal, have refined their working method and achieved their first successes. It is essentially a modern form of development aid.
'In less developed economies, it can be a bit more difficult to achieve your ultimate goal. In the West, we are used to very structured or streamlined production processes. We often have to 'push' people on behalf of commissioning clients to get the work done on time, which doesn't always make things any easier. It can come across as if we are Westerners here to explain how it works. We try to avoid that at all times. Still, it sometimes feels that way and that can be frustrating.' Pim points out the importance of an equal relationship. By involving the local craftspeople in the process from day one, they feel jointly responsible for it. In this way, the projects can be continued after the departure of Superlocal. 'We want to position ourselves as dispensable. Designers are often inclined to place themselves in the spotlight, but we prefer to focus attention on our local partner.'
Currently, Pim is in Rwanda. A year ago he was approached by the MASS Design Group, an architectural firm from Boston (United States). Their headquarters are in the Rwandan capital Kigali. It is not an unknown party for Pim who has been familiar with the bureau since the start of Superlocal. But it turned out to be true the other way round as well. After several publications on international design platforms that showed the successes of Superlocal in recent years, MASS Design Group made contact. The bureau is building an agricultural university in Rwanda. While they focus on all the structural matters, they asked Superlocal to design the complete interior for the campus. 'MASS Design Group is a great example. They always work on the basis of local crafts, techniques and materials and their designs are thoroughly researched. Their goal is to create employment and stimulate the local economy. What they mean for architecture, we want to mean for product design!'
Text: Giovanni Burke
Bernhard often works alone, but is also active as the founder of the We Are Foundation collective. The fact that the members come from different disciplines makes it possible to work on larger themes from different angles.
During his studies in industrial and mechanical design in Austria, where he was born, Bernhard saw that commercial redesign of products was very important. However, the actual problem was not solved. This outdated way of thinking could not hold his attention for long, which is why he now focuses mainly on the aforementioned themes. A further course of study at the Design Academy in Eindhoven made it possible to experiment more and eventually to focus on these themes.
Since last year, he has been developing his design methodology further. During this process, the realization came that he had to try to find this at the highest possible level, because that is where international law, politics and human rights are ultimately determined. At European Union level, for instance. 'Over the past year, I have looked at how I can enter into a collaboration with Members of the European Parliament. As an overarching body, the EU has its strengths and weaknesses. If communicating international legislation and issues better to the public were to succeed, it would be a big step forward. I've spent many hours trying to figure out UN publications myself, and they're really difficult to get through!'
Bernhard would like to support the communication of the policies and good intentions of these MEPs. In addition, in collaboration with a representative of Justice and Peace Netherlands, he started last year with research focused on design in Burundi. The LGBT community there is under great pressure, homosexuality is illegal and, as a result, many unjust arrests are taking place. Bernhard is keen to utilize his design methodology to improve the situation. The first step is to build a support network, so that the youth in Burundi can organize themselves better and which could offer a solution to local problems, for example by using design in a practical way. The uncertain political climate, linked to the upcoming national elections, has brought this project to a standstill for the time being. But Bernhard is determined to bring it to a successful conclusion.
When asked about his ultimate goal, Bernhard Lenger indicates that he especially wants recognition. Not personally, but recognition for the fact that designers can help to find usable solutions to social problems. 'Various organizations that have a major impact on our society can benefit enormously here. As designers, we can form the link between politics and society. Complex social themes can convey the message in an understandable way by using of design and imagination.'
Text: Giovanni Burke
As a creative designer at the start of his career, Koen plays with space and light; tangible objects or installations are the end result. But ultimately, he doesn't want to design just for the sake of it – instead, by combining technology and art, he wants to offer his audience an experience. He explains, 'Using the power of imagination, you can enable people to fantasize and be inspired, but also just simply relax. You can use technology to share an experience.' Koen says that he once had a dream where he found himself in a completely orange space. He thought it was such an amazing experience, that he wanted to recreate that feeling and share it with others. In order to create the impression of infinite space, he reached out to partners from the science world. By projecting light evenly within a spherical object, it creates the sensation of being in a state somewhere between being awake and falling asleep, which is known as 'hypnagogia'. The brainwaves that are stimulated during this state can help people who are facing burn-out significantly improve their physical condition. So it's no surprise that this is a pleasant, impressive experience.
In the past year, Koen Steger has been shifting his focus away from theatre, and more towards set design for television and light installations. He's also planning to design a combination of music and light using a 'light synthesizer'. What's clear is that Koen doesn't allow himself to be pushed into a project-based boxes. He's interested in collaborating with other disciplines, wants to continue to develop as broadly as possible, and makes whatever he wants. After taking a few detours, he is finally becoming the inventor he always wanted to be.
Text: Giovanni Burke
His graduation project was about wireless networking. He says, 'In public spaces, these networks play a private role because they're protected, and therefore not always accessible. People rarely consider the boundaries created by these networks, because they aren't visible to the naked eye.' Smart homes have also piqued his interest. Currently, smart thermostats are one of the most popular and frequently used smart home products. Teis has tried to design his own smart thermostat based on simple, readily available technology. Old smartphones collecting dust in a drawer at home can be used to develop a toolkit. He explains, 'Old smartphones have so many sensors and other types of built-in technology that can serve as the foundation for building smart home devices by yourself. Even my grandmother can easily set an alarm on her smartphone. Programming like that, at a micro level, can already be used to control household devices. Making contact via the SIM card using phones like these also creates great opportunities for DIY projects.'
Ever since going to China, Teis de Greve has also been fascinated by the 'smart city' phenomenon. There, he learned about bike-sharing systems that go 'live' overnight. Because the economic climate in China means these shared bikes aren't accessible to everyone, people are finding ways to cheat the system. For example, they hack the digital lock and take control of the bike by putting their own lock on it. Teis presented a self-designed lock at a fair for startups – and it was a rather unethical design. But it's impossible for Teis to make stealing bikes easier. With his design, he wants to be an instigator and encourage people to think about these sharing systems and their socio-economic consequences.
Text: Giovanni Burke
It is precisely this contrast between the traditional technique of an oil painting, the digital representation and the unusual surface, that characterizes Théophile Blandet's artistic practice. In both cases, the fountain as an artefact plays a symbolic role with water that splits up and is spewed forth in large quantities.
He prefers to make everything himself from his workshop on Strijp-S in Eindhoven and once in a while he throws himself into a new material and explores all its possibilities. He compares his working method with that of a fashion designer, who makes a new collection every six months, sometimes with new materials, techniques or starting points. Before he starts investigating a new material or begins a new project, Théophile always draws up a set of rules for himself. He once limited himself to using only 15 plastics, which he melted down in various ways to produce hanging systems and bookshelves. His practice involves a high degree of craftsmanship, and he always starts with the material and conducts extensive research into it before he starts sawing, slicing, sanding, cutting or heating. Ideas for new forms of objects emerge from the possibilities of the material he has chosen.
All the objects developed by Théophile Blandet have a certain sculptural quality and are never the same. At the moment, he works almost exclusively with a certain type of aluminium, which he utilizes in the production of unique handmade chairs and tables. He always presents the results of his material research and never sees anything as a failure. It is part of the outcome of his research and therefore valuable. Although common in the design world, he never makes several models. The outcome of his research is always the first and simultaneously the last model.
Text: Manique Hendricks
It's a typical Vera de Pont challenge. With a background in biomedical science and design, she entered the world of fashion more or less accidentally. Catwalks and the whole fuss surrounding it don't interest her. Her mission is to solve the inefficiency of the fashion system using science and creativity. 'For years I have been reading in books how proteins can fold themselves to acquire a certain function. I'm applying that knowledge to textiles now. In her research, she is also involved in developing software that generates digital blueprints for the knitting machine or 3D printer, for example. 'In my world, technology and creativity coincide a great deal; I see it as my paintbrush. We first design our instruments and tools before we make what comes out of them. I can get really excited when I think about both at the same time.'
Together with Martijn van Strien, she wrote the 'Open Source Fashion Manifesto' ('The future designer is a facilitator, developing the platform for designing and creating the final garment'). Together with Anouk van de Sande, she created AnoukxVera, a studio dedicated to Trend forecasting and textiles. In 2015, they started with sports wearables, an extension of her hobbies of bouldering, cycling and motorcycling. She is also in Taskforce Fashion, where she and 14 other designers have been commissioned by the Fund to think about burning social issues and how design can provide an answer to them. It's clear that Vera doesn't like competition. 'Together you get much further than on your own. And you can also take on more large-scale projects. You get pulled out of your own head.'
For her, it's not all about earning money; she prefers to invest in knowledge development and also in more intense collaborations with people from whom she can learn, such as Hella Jongerius. She dreams of one day working with NASA or ESA. 'I draw most of my inspiration from science; a material that is ultra-light and at the same time immensely strong fascinates me enormously. I am intrigued by the overlap between hi-tech and nature. That's what I really want to focus on.'
Text: Jessica Gysel
Studying conceptual design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and design by data at the École des Ponts in Paris, Waèl never fully resolved existential questions about his personal position in the field. Reflecting on his family roots in Algeria and Tunisia, he began to explore the construction of identity over extended histories and geographies of colonialism and migration, in which data collection and profiling have proved endemic. At the same time, he also questioned the contemporary perception of math and science as domains of Western invention and advancement, rather than as the collective outcomes of cross-cultural exchange over many centuries, from classical antiquity through Byzantium, the Persian empire, the Islamic Golden Age, and the Renaissance.
Over the past few years, Waèl has developed a nonlinear approach to research, carrying out his investigations like intuitive algorithms guided by both a childlike sense of curiosity and an ethical care for context. In Ways of Knowing: Materialising the Gaze, he decided to create his own knowledge by measuring the colour of light in different places related to the history of Islamic science. To do so, he built his own instrument by adapting a 3D printer to replace the printer head with a spectrograph, a pinhole camera that measures a hyperspectral range of light from infrared to ultraviolet. The process of collecting original data provided the opportunity to become embedded in complex geographies and histories, as in his current fieldwork in Algeria and Tunisia.
At the same time, he delves into the histories of knowledge transfer that shaped the development of Western science through his project Orientalising Science - places like Béjaïa, in the Kabylie region of Algeria, where Fibonacci learned Islamic mathematics and Arabic numerals; or Utica, Tunisia, one of the most important Punic cities as well as Roman colonies; or Djerba, an island off the coast of Tunisia with a long history of Jewish-Muslim cohabitation and craftsmanship. In these sites, he looks for aspects of hybridity, from historical accounts in institutional archives to architectural constructions where marble slabs from Italy, Greece, and Tunisia lay side by side. Ultimately, Waèl el Allouche offers neither simple explanations nor data simulations; his aim is to begin dialogues that are grounded in shared lineages of discovery, conflict, and identity.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
“Actually, because of the single child policy, the real problem is there are a lot of men leftover: surplus men.” Wong explains that having a lot of single men in society can cause chaos, and this is why the government has put pressure on women to marry them. With the project Leftover Woman, Wong has created an interactive website that is an experiment in non-linear storytelling through gamified film. The user plays a young, educated woman in China who has to make a number of decisions that conflict between individual free will and the will of a collective society.
Born in the Netherlands—and brought up between Rotterdam and Hong Kong—Wong feels that her position between Western and Chinese cultures gives her an opportunity to explore these cultural incongruences from a critical but compassionate perspective. “When you explain something in the West and ask if people understand it, they will say that they understand but do or don't agree”, she describes. “In China, people will say that they don't understand, but what they mean is that they don't agree. Then it becomes about convincing people to agree. Both sides have something to learn from each other.” Such cultural idiosyncrasies can be reflected in the construction of stories.
“Stories give shape to the things that people believe. They have a soft power in shaping society and its ideologies.” Wong says that since graduating from the Master's programme in Information Design at the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2015, she sees herself as a designer of stories. Her multi-award winning graduation project Reconstructing Reality was a deeply personal investigation into the circumstances around her father's death, giving an insight into how families create their own stories to live by, and how these can both liberate and oppress. Like Leftover Women, the film relies heavily on found footage, which has become a signature of her work.
“There's nothing new nowadays. Even if I were to create a new video filming the sea, how would it be unique or different to what I could find on Shutterstock?” asks Wong, who is also debuting a new work about the myth-making antics of Jack Ma—CEO of Alibaba.com—at Dutch Design Week. “For me, it's more interesting to look at what already exists with a different eye, embed it into a different context, and then to create friction and generate new meaning.”
Text: Nadine Botha
Artisans have an important role to play in her practice, which is based on the notion that if other experts get the opportunity to add their knowledge and creativity to a project, the results will be raised to a higher level. By having parts of the design completed only later in the process, she invites specialists, end-users, and others to engage in dialogue about the execution. Because of this, the choices regarding materials, spatial design, and finishing are made gradually during the process itself. As an architect, she often presents no definitive design, preferring to use sketches, models, and mock-ups as an opportunity for dialogue and shared ownership.
The strong creative culture in India – characterized by large numbers of artisans and craftspeople, low levels of standardization, and the notion that details can take shape gradually – has enabled and enhanced her working method. The mentality of collective effort is applied at different scales – from product and exhibition design through to buildings and landscape architecture.
After having been based primarily in Mumbai for the last five years, Anne now hopes to expand the working method she has developed into the Netherlands and Europe. In this part of the world, building conventions are different than in India, but she believes that relationships between different professions can be structured in a more interesting way. For example, reusing an unconventional material, such as demolition waste, necessitates a creative discussion between the contractor and the architect, forcing a collaborative approach to the design and detailing. Anne is also exploring how construction processes in a European context can become more related to the place in which they are based with regard to collaboration and materials. Various presentation opportunities, including at the Venice Architecture Biennale, have enabled her to reflect on her practice and clarify it.
Text: Mark Minkjan
Although Fortgens didn´t train as a fashion designer, he did study at the Design Academy Eindhoven. It was an educational programme that focused on finding things out for yourself, trial & error, being receptive to chance, and inspirational 'mistakes'. He learned about the fashion profession on the job. Rather than drawing and cutting patterns like you're supposed to, he used second-hand clothing as a basis, for example, and moulded clothes to create new shapes and ideas.
For his first collection, his models paraded up and down the catwalk dressed in oversized, archetypal clothing, accompanied solely by the sound of footsteps. The effect was bare, empty, and quite clearly a criticism of the glitter and glamour of the fashion world. Fortgens has an aversion to the fast, commercial nature of fashion and to talking about sustainability as a PR statement. But the conventions of fashion are proving difficult to break. The Fashion Weeks still dictate the purchasing policy in the shops and small-scale responsible production is a huge challenge.
Fortgens has now produced six collections. As demand for his work has grown, he feels more freedom to try and change the norms, to make his own mark. He aims to do this from within, like a Trojan horse. His latest collection pushes the boundaries of what one can wear and what is recognisable. To add weight to his message, Fortgens is experimenting with different means of communication. He wants to compile a photo book and raise the profile of his website, for example. Online there is more room for experimenting and more opportunity to involve as many people as possible in his work.
According to Fortgens, the taboo in 2018 is 'the real'. He doesn't see the reality of his generation reflected much in any of the images we are fed by the fashion industry. Clothing is the perfect vehicle for keeping up appearances and determining identity and etiquette. But to Fortgens, recording a zeitgeist and eliciting a new style of realism in his designs as a counter-reaction to 'fake' is more important than making fashion more sustainable or slowing down the industry. In a world where there are already plenty of clothes, he wants to be a cultural vehicle asking questions about how we live. Above all: but why?
Text: Victoria Anastasyadis
She uses architecture – in which she graduated – as the medium for telling stories about human ambitions, socio-political histories and potential future scenarios. The language of architecture speaks to the imagination, giving it the metaphorical power to tell the story of humanity and encourage us to think about the future. Departing from what is conventional in modern visual culture, the architecture in Carlijn's work is not a final image offering the pretence of perfection, but an open suggestion of a future in the process of becoming. Her cartography of ideas pursues paths from history, extrapolating potential routes to the future from them.
Her drawings, metres in height, are complicated visual maps often depicting several worlds alongside each other in order to portray the choices faced by humanity. The complexity of the work lies not only in the intricate drawing, but also the world of the mind it presents. The images invite viewers to lose themselves within them and to reflect on the desirability of a range of socio-political possibilities by depicting both their beauty and their dark sides. They are calls for further exploration, which Carlijn hopes will enthuse people about stories from different cultures and times, both big and small.
In developing the drawings, she always works with scientists, architects, artists or writers. This helps inform her own research into such themes as capitalism, religion, and technology, and to present depictions of other people's ideas. Each drawing is accompanied by a publication and a video.
Currently, Carlijn is developing additional methods for conveying the stories and worlds depicted. She also aims to invite her audience to engage in discussion with her and with each other. Various different media are used in this process, including radio plays, performative situations, and presentations that provide access to some of the research. She has improved the professionalism of her practice by hiring a designer to help design dialogues around her work.
Text: Mark Minkjan
Over the past year, following her studies at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Jhen has investigated these themes in her research, building on her master's thesis exploring the Taiwanese identity, its synthetic culture and language, and the iconography of former leader Chiang Kai-shek. Reflecting on this project, she realised that her search for the factors that differentiated Taiwan from China had become, in itself, a political endeavour. Last year, she set herself the challenge of travelling to an unknown place in order to study it from an unbiased perspective. Nonetheless, and despite having never visited the city before, her photos and observations of Jakarta seemed to reproduce an impression of speed, density, and social inequality that she had passively absorbed through media depictions.
Jhen's latest work asks what it means to observe a much more mundane subject matter—a person eating lunch. Over Dutch work lunches, Jhen would note in obsessive detail the behaviour of the person across from her, including what food they ate, in which order, how they moved their body, how they held their utensils, how they arranged their plate, what they left unfinished. She recorded her notes as a script, which formed the basis for a reenacted performance by a Taiwanese actor, who (like Jhen) was unfamiliar with Dutch food culture. Like Georges Perec's An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, Jhen's work explores the role of the observer, language, and reader in the process of capturing a complex and unfolding reality in documentary form.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
“It feels like machines are kind of alive sometimes”, confesses the Utrecht- and Soesterburg-based designer. He prefers to dive right into the making of his pieces, rather than spend too much time planning and researching, and allow the process to drive his creations. He completed the Master's programme in Product Design in 2015, at the University of the Arts Utrecht, but discovered his creative inspiration while interning as an architectural model maker. In order to understand financial systems for the piece Moniac, he describes nine months of research watching Youtube and speaking with experts. He confesses, however, to not really enjoying it.
The divergence between designer and design process that has developed with the growth of computer-aided making is what inspired De Bruin's Analogue 3D Printer, which works by requiring the designer's physical input. “I want to have a relationship with the machine, not just hand over the execution of a design to them”, he explains. Typically, a human-machine relationship only affects the human, but De Bruin also wanted to explore if there was a way for the machine to be impacted by human interaction. The Neurotransmitter 3000 is a one-person roller coaster in which the machine responds to biometric data obtained from the rider.
As someone who is in constant demand from clients ranging from museums and marketing agencies to other designers, De Bruin says that he does not have a lot of time to pursue his own projects. One recent commission, another collaboration with Maasenbroek, launches at the Eindhoven Museum during Dutch Design Week. At the moment, however, he is working on a range of sophisticated pinball machines. He hopes to develop these into a product range.
“It's a basic emotion”, he states—with typically deadpan delivery—when asked to elaborate on the thread of humour that runs through his work. “It works with a lot of people, and it works for me. I don't like to do those super serious things.”
Text: Nadine Botha
Although different technologies and new possibilities now exist, the promise of technology is still stuck in twentieth-century templates. Frank envisages a more inclusive capacity of the imagination with regard to technology, bypassing the narrow notion of hyper-efficiency and grounded in diverse ideals and experiences. Technology is not neutral and its development should not solely be based on the perceptions of prosperous, middle-aged white men from the Bay Area. For this reason, Frank attempts to bring the discussion about technology into the public arena, making it a socio-political topic that is not the sole preserve of technical experts. Recurring themes include DIY and open source, which question technological dictatorships, the illusion of faultless design and the notion that end-users have nothing to add to products.
His speculative designs contribute to a critical discourse on product design. It is a discipline that has not kept pace with other creative fields in this regard, despite the fact that upscaling and its increased potential influence require it to do so. Whereas most product design is self-affirming, Frank's designs are self-questioning. His work suggests none-too-distant futures in which the available technologies, many of them new, are used in ways for which no conventions exist and which raise ethical dilemmas. By combining fiction and reality, the installations provide the public with a starting point from which to think about the desirability of certain technologies and potential futures.
In developing his practice, Frank initially focused primarily on independent work exploring the moral boundaries around technological innovations in mental and physical health. In this process, he collaborated with scientists, medical specialists, and artists. In the last year, he also worked with research institutes and companies, where some of his research was conducted and designs were realized. This enables larger projects to come into being while Frank is developing skills as a mediator. By doing so, he is creating conditions to help other designers and students to achieve design based on new perspectives. As his independent practice continues to grow, his design philosophy is gradually being communicated more widely.
Text: Mark Minkjan
The Rotterdam-based designer has been interested in the impact of these unseen infrastructures since she undertook a project as a student about electronic waste being sent to Rwanda. In 2016 she obtained her bachelor's at the Design Academy Eindhoven with 5000times, a project that analysed various media sources to create an incomplete list of the manual tasks executed by a human worker in the construction of smartphones, tablets and laptops. The information was compiled by surveying news articles about exploited workers in smartphone, tablet and laptop factories, and analysing bootleg footage of operations in these factories on Youtube – opening and destroying a couple of devices in the process. A durational performance of a worker's shift demonstrated the restrictive choreography of the job that has driven many to suicide.
“I feel that design research is really about reflecting, understanding, and also shifting in some ways, the material world that we inhabit.” Mager also writes about her findings, including a paper about 5000times in the journal Decolonising Design. However, she finds it important to also present the results in the material design language of the subject matter: “It's a very beautiful thing that you can actually communicate quite complex things through design languages, grammar, and materiality, which makes the complexities very tangible.”
This signature approach of in-depth information investigation and analysis—seen through a lens of economics and power dynamics and manifested in an artistic and performative reinterpretation—has been applied to subjects including the food industry, urban consumer space, and the shipping container industry. Working together with political scientist Daniel Urey and designer Gabriel Maher, she also continues the long-term research project based around the concept of “the podium” – an object on which an act of speech takes place – examining how repeated patterns of design are used historically and culturally to articulate power.
Returning to her forthcoming research in China, she says that she is interested in the “remaining coloniality of such a young industry”. Specifically, how value and power are still distributed so unevenly: between worker and manufacturer, between Apple's low market share and high profit, between the international communities' stance on China's human rights violations and its use as a trade and tax haven. As a designer, particularly a critical research designer who is not compelled to make a marketable product, she acknowledges that she is in the upper percentages of the value and power hierarchy: “How can I use this to highlight that design is always both innovation and destruction?”
Text: Nadine Botha
Born to Dutch parents in Pakistan, and having grown up in Thailand and Australia, Hansma is acutely aware of how relativity functions across cultures, landscapes and languages. “I believe in 'pass-throughs' of past and present experiences of others, that have been changed by my own experiences”, he describes, paraphrasing the eco-philosopher Joanna Macy. A graduate of the Fine Art Master's programme at the Piet Zwart Instituut, Rotterdam, Hansma's range of writing, installation and performance works are both diverse and interlinked in their scope. They include decommissioned lab components used to study quantum entanglement, reflecting the precision of the unknowable; fragmented photographs that explore lightness as material, glass-blown forms that explore the abstract materiality of the human body; and poetic video works that reflect on temporality and non-linearity. The work can be read as snapshots of the complex ecologies of collective cognition and identity; an increasingly relevant topic as our accelerated network culture confronts us with the limitations of both obsessive individuality and blind group thinking.
“I think the crisis that we're in is a lack of understanding of the porosity of our world, and that think that our identities are contained in ourselves and that a human ends at the boundaries of their skin.” Hansma explains that he is heavily influenced by feminist theorist Karen Barad—who explores how our ideas and identities that are not situated within the physical world but are a part of that world. Exploring the liminality between thought and body, touch and interaction, co-dependence and entanglement, and old and new technologies is Hansma's forthcoming short film Umbra. Inspired by the ghost movie genre, the film explores the politics of algorithms using early silent films from EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, footage shot in a quantum physics laboratory, and footage of rippling water originally used in mapping sea-level change.
Another expansion of Hansma's practice is Shimmer, a non-profit art space in Rotterdam Port opened with Eloise Sweetman in 2018. It intends to offer an intimate space for fellow artists to also explore porous concepts and identities outside of the outcomes-funded art industry.
Text: Nadine Botha
The Portuguese designer Joana Chicau continues this tradition, fusing her background as a dancer with her education in media design. Chicau, who completed her master's at the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, was attracted to the broader outlook of the Dutch graphic design field, encompassing methods and channels far beyond the traditional tools of visual design and printing. She approaches design not only by mastering technologies like computer code, but by critically engaging with the way these technologies engender systems of control and predetermination in the people who shape, employ, or experience them. Her work questions issues of agency, the user, code as language or script, and physical interaction with digital technology. Furthermore, her live “choreographic coding” sessions give visibility to code as a kind of material as well as an action, one normally hidden behind smooth, seamless digital interfaces or inside the glass-walled offices of corporate giants.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
This year, Janssen has continued to explore the meaning of the “online user”, translating her research into a physical installation consisting of several games, each focusing on a particular aspect of her findings. She designs tools for people to understand how they are tracked and quantified—not only on social media, but in terms of their health, financial status, stage of life, and online browser history. These data are combined across platforms and systems in order to build more complex profiles. Different profiles also have different financial weight: for example, profiles of pregnant women are seen as particularly lucrative given their tendency to buy new products for their babies, their homes, or themselves. Finally, Janssen models a game inspired by slot machines whereby users pay with their data in order to gamble for free. As Janssen describes, we are the product of our individual information.
In her investigations, Janssen has transcended the limits of the design discipline: her research shows that many of the social orchestrations and categorisations enacted by mass data collection are invisible to the end user, but highly instrumental to the organisation that collects, manages, or analyses that data. In order to acquire a clear picture of the status quo, she spoke to behavioural scientists, data journalists, cybersecurity experts, and analysts for Rabobank and KPMG, as well as researchers at the Institute for Information Law at the University of Amsterdam. She believes that working within the context of art and design allows her to investigate these themes more speculatively, weirdly, sceptically and lightheartedly, encouraging a more open-ended and creative response to issues that may seem beyond our control.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
As early as 2015, the show he put on when he graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy stood out from the rest. Entitled She knows why the caged bird sings, his collection was inspired by heritage from his native country, Morocco. His second presentation, She lives behind the court yard door (the opening show at the Amsterdam Fashion Week), was a real eye-opener and a turning point for him: this is not the way. After the relative freedom afforded by the art academy, the professional fashion world with its inflexible rhythm and sky-high expectations felt like a gilded cage. He wanted his next project to be a statement, entirely on his own conditions and in line with his own vision.
For the collection She has 99 names, Adduchi sought the help of non-professionals: housewives, students and refugees. By involving people from outside the fashion industry, he was trying to reinstate a certain innocence, freshness and pleasure into designing. In addition, Adduchi wanted to give them a platform, a CV and a network. By concentrating all the work in the same studio (from sewing to fittings on models), he tried to involve everyone in the entire process and generate a community. As the skills of those he involved were very diverse, cooperation and collaboration were of the essence. The experiences, crafts and stories these people contributed formed an important source of inspiration for Adduchi. A total of around 25 people worked on the project.
This collection also features references to Adduchi's roots, such as embroidery inspired by North-African mosaics and traditional patterns. The fashion show was held out of season in a church. Both the timing and the venue were a statement. The huge media attention this presentation generated (both before and after the event) established Adduchi's name and identity as a 'social fashion designer'.
The social impact of design and the way designers work is steadily gaining attention. Not only the product, but also the process becomes important. It can be difficult to express this in the end result. More and more makers are taking to social media to give people a glimpse of how their ideas arise and evolve. Adduchi prefers to communicate his underlying ideas through words in interviews, lectures and press releases. The faces behind his collection also have their moment in the spotlight on the catwalk, but in the end, it's the clothes that do the talking.
Text: Victoria Anastasyadis
Koos Breen's practice is a paradigm of this approach to research through design. Every object, image, structure, or installation becomes the seed for a new idea—one with the potential to take any form or medium, which can explore new meanings or functions, unburdened by the conditions of previous experiments. Like many graphic designers trained in the Netherlands, his work is not confined to the traditional skills he was taught. On the contrary, part of his approach is to celebrate the unexpected outcomes of techniques in which he has no formal training: from pottery and virtual reality to weaving and casting. .
These trans-material investigations also bring Breen into close proximity with a variety of collaborators. These range from experience designers Random Studio to textile designer Nadine Goepfert, professionals with the ability to complement Breen's border-crossing design curiosity with specific areas of technical specialisation and expertise. His work reflects the challenging demands faced by the contemporary designer to be able to move confidently from the realm of concrete objects encountered in a physical space to the visual representations of these objects in digital and print media. Breen's method is an example of how a designer can expand and develop their practice without sacrificing the playfulness, lateral thinking, and continuous learning that drove their explorations during their design education.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
Van Daal began to attract attention in 2014 with her graduation project: a printed chair combining advanced technology with biomimicry – 'learning from nature' – in order to optimize products or processes and make them more sustainable. She believes that studying, analysing and implementing natural phenomena is the key to a more sustainable design practice. Her purchase of the acclaimed book Kunstformen der Natur, by the nineteenth-century zoologist Ernst Haeckel, is probably one of her most important investments of the last year. Its detailed drawings form an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
As she has now given up her regular job at a design agency, she is free to engage in more experimentation and collaboration. During a business challenge, van Daal was paired with Oceanz, a Dutch 3D printing company. She set to work using a recyclable plastic developed by them. She started trying to use this new material to create a full-size version of the chair she created for her graduation as a scale model (1:2). In order to achieve this, van Daal has learned more about the software and the digital drawing of structures in order to improve the efficiency of the modelling and production. The problem lies in the limitations of the printer: while the scale models could be printed in one go, it is now necessary to print out separate components. She joins them to each other using efficient connection points (similar to those found in nature), rather than glue. Glue makes furniture – and especially couches – difficult to recycle, which is a major frustration for van Daal.
The result of the collaboration, Radiolaria (named after micro-organisms with an unusual structure) was presented during the 2018 Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Both the production time and production costs have been halved. She had only one opportunity to print the final version, with just a few tests in advance. This means that it is still another prototype that requires further development.
Van Daal is less interested in a final product than in improving processes, including recycling. It is more important to her to reduce production time and energy consumption than to design a trendy chair. This attitude is in line with an age in which a critical approach to the sustainability of designs is adopted. Does the world really need a new chair?
Text: Victoria Anastasyadis
In a more immediate way, her work is about promoting local contact, where sharing a place or facility can provide a sense of local security and social connection. Surprise encounters can enhance the ability to empathise with others' perspectives and even mitigate social isolation. At the same time, Manon identifies a general tendency to design places, systems and products as efficiently as possible, while friction and inefficiency can actually help create unexpected situations and initiate contacts with others.
That is why Manon's designs always focus on encounters and dialogue. She does not believe in organizing meetings, but is much more interested in eliciting conversations around practical human needs. After all, people from all kinds of backgrounds have to do the washing, have their hair cut or collect parcels. By creating interventions around these practical links in society, unforced encounters emerge which can be designed in all kinds of ways to encourage and elicit conversations. Specific conversational subjects can be introduced, for example, that are of relevance to the people involved, the location where the work is based, and the wider debate. Equally, opinions and stories can be collected from people whose voices may often go unheard in democratic processes or in the public arena. By placing these useful aspects on a pedestal, Manon also demonstrates the social importance of collective places and public occupations.
Although her original intentions were different, Manon has opted to position herself as a designer in the context of numerous collaborations rather than setting up a studio with several staff members. She also plans to develop fewer full projects independently by outsourcing more aspects. The clearly-defined and yet boundless core of her work – causing people to meet – means that she has the potential to develop her practice in all kinds of forms, areas, and collaborations. Manon also develops concepts for businesses and organizations, enabling projects to be adopted after completion and continue to exist over the longer term.
Text: Mark Minkjan
Redele's work is agonistic: containing a form of struggle and inviting people to participate and respond. Suggestive of multiple architectural scenarios within single works, they take attention from the physical to the more imaginary level. Márks practice is not only a phenomenology of material and movement but also of language: it investigates how to rewrite space.
Skeuomorphic elements—materials moulded to look like other materials—are recurring cues in his practice that challenge collective perceptions and conventions. By offering new perspectives on commonplace items, environments or situations, the work redirects attention to the mundane, to everyday movements, occurrences and sensations. Encounters with it trigger people to rediscover tactility, materiality, and invisible actions and responses. An installation could at the same time be understood as a domestic design object, an architectural form and a structure becoming something else. This quality of becoming is another core theme in his work, through which he challenges claims of completeness and dictation in spatial design, proposing a more open exchange between people and spaces.
Redele sees the art world as a fruitful environment in which to construct his Trojan horse, through which he can bring his spatial approach to the scale of architecture. As installations, his theoretical creations can materialise and be more than paper architecture. His aim is to arrive in the same arena as traditional architectural practices but to create structures that offer more freedom in their materiality, meaning and affordances.
His practice is currently developing into more collaborative projects for which he is working with writers, designers, artists and photographers. Inviting others to develop artistic interpretations of spatial phenomena builds on Redele's practice of presenting a variety of architectural scenarios simultaneously. Still creating autonomous work, he now takes on a more curatorial role, bringing together different voices that relate to space in unusual ways.
Text: Mark Minkjan
“It is a mediator of conversations”, says Bos of the interactive installation that he developed while completing a research residency at the Unstable Design Lab in Boulder, Colorado. The work marks a turning point in the Rotterdam-based designer's practice. Since graduating from TU Delft's Integrated Product Design Master's in 2013, he has co-founded the Better Future Factory start-up (building on the Perpetual Plastic Project interactive recycling installation), worked with the Bugaboo baby stroller company to open-source design aspects in order to make replacement parts 3D-printable, worked with local people in Peru to co-design furniture woven from PET bottles, and participated in the adaptation and redesign of core relief items for refugees in Lesvos. He also still finds time to write, record and perform music.
“When I graduated, I really believed that if you want to do something to change the world, to make it more sustainable, you had to also make a business out of it”; Bos confesses that over the past few years he has realised that the way we do business is one of our biggest problems. Similarly, he has abandoned some project ideas centred on technological optimisation: “Technology doesn't bring people together. People come together. Making some great technology or app isn't suddenly going to improve the world. It has to come from social change.”
Facilitating this change by creating interventions that help us redefine our values and ways of doing things is the essence of “transition design” for the Rotterdam-based designer. The Pathfinders project has inspired Bos to focus his work more in this direction. He continues to work on a machine-learning enabled secondhand clothing project that combines the potential of new technologies with the urgent need to discuss and revalue the disposability of the fashion industry.
“I won't ever”, concludes Bos, “say I design solutions anymore.” In a world of constant change, solutions become obsolete so fast. We need more transitions.
Text: Nadine Botha
It is, however, exactly this definition-defying playing field in which he thrives. Besides, Reus understands firsthand that “struggles build character”. After completing his bachelor's in the US, he broke his back and was forced to compromise in his artistic ambitions, taking software engineering jobs to pay back his student loans and medical bills. “That kind of work sort of trains your neurons to work very logically and rationally in a disembodied way”, Reus describes, and “a lot of my artwork is kind of a push against that.”
This fightback is reflected “both from a technological standpoint, and also in the process of developing artistic tools that encourage embodiment, a sense of flow, a sense of being in time, being in a moment.” These are some of the spatial, durational and embodied qualities that drew him to sound as an artistic medium. The current resurgence of sound art, he wonders, may represent the global magnification of his own struggles: “Maybe my experience software is just a microcosm of the entire rest of the world's experiences of being over inundated with screens.” Now based in The Hague, his artistic ambitions were given a second chance in 2009 when he received a W. J. Fulbright fellowship to undertake a research project at STEIM in Amsterdam. In 2014, he went on to complete the Master's in Music at the ArtScience Interfaculty of the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.
Still, he hankers to find a kind of middle ground and spent the past year trying to find a working methodology for his creative practice. Step one of this necessitated the building of a studio. Now, about to embark on a residency at the IEM in Graz as part of the 'Algorithms That Matter' research project, he is looking to explore alternative, non-digital algorithmic ideas from different cultures. These are of interest not only as a new approach to electronic music but also to perfect his work process: “I want to challenge myself to make an algorithm for myself to make art”, he muses half-jokingly. “Hopefully at the end of this year, I'll have either a completely tongue-in-cheek flowchart for producing work or something that's a really powerful tool, flexible enough to allow serendipity but structured enough to produce identity.”
Text: Nadine Botha
Although her designs may be unconventional, the design problems she encounters are as conventional as can be: what is the best way to use the material to do justice to its natural state of being? As an independent designer, how can you bridge the gap with the industry? The distinctive, colourful shoes she designs are still at the prototype stage. Her aim isn't so much to create her own label as to conduct research and advise businesses about materials and technology, and to think up new applications for footwear in collaboration with innovative parties.
Her thirst for deeper knowledge of technology is driven by frustration with the answer “no, you can't do that with a machine” – an answer that isn't even always true. Oude Hengel has found the space she needs to learn and experiment in the TextielLab in Tilburg, which is part of the TextielMuseum. After a 12-month internship, she now works as a technical assistant in the knitting department. She doesn't only learn all there is to know about flat-bed knitting machines, but also about the software that controls the digital equipment. Learning to program takes a lot of time and practice, so Oude Hengel does this in her spare time. You could call it digital craft: you have to practise, experiment, and clock up lots of hours and metres. By investing in software, she is now able to get to grips with the program in her studio.
The manual knitting machines she uses herself are a good, low-tech, hands-on way of trying out her ideas and changing things as she goes along. This is more difficult on digital machines because you have to load all the information first. Since graduating, she has also found a low-threshold way of soling her shoes: dipping the top of the shoes (upper) into a bath of rubber. No glue is required. At the moment, she is exploring the use of spacers (a material with space in the middle, like a sandwich) to attach the soles, again without the need for adhesives.
She visited several European trade fairs last year to broaden her knowledge of materials and to catch up with the latest developments. This resulted in visibility and a brand-new network, and she is now reaping the benefits in the shape of increasingly exciting and relevant new commissions. Knitting definitely has a future.
Text: Victoria Anastasyadis
Schimmel's work reflects a contemporary world where creative fields feed off of and infect one another, one where clothing can be both the subject and medium of socioeconomic critique. Today, as house prices become increasingly prohibitive to young people and as social media seeks to capture every waking moment of our lives, what people choose to wear makes a powerful statement in public space. Rather than frame her practice through projects driven by abstract concepts, Schimmel embraces the messy complexities, coincidences, and paradoxes that she witnesses on the streets of London. The frivolous can be as meaningful as the minimalist, and her work functions as a barometer for how people interact with textile on a day-to-day basis. She enjoys the freedom of withdrawing from the need to make a wearable and profitable collection, while also challenging the art world's aversion to things that resemble products.
Most recently, Schimmel has explored the twin rhetorics of hyper-functionality and painstaking traditionalism in contemporary clothing, concepts she describes as “ornamental survivalism” and “bucolic nostalgia”. The romantic longing for a simpler past has long been a central motif in human culture, and equally so in fashion, even as technological advances make fabrics and garment construction ever more complex, engineered, and performative. Schimmel frames both “ornamental survivalism” and “bucolic nostalgia” as responses to the malleable ideas of nature, urbanism, and morality. Both the camouflage-print coat and the high-visibility, waterproof backpack embody a deeply embedded fear of the unknown future and a valorisation of the hunter figure, while the straw basket conjures images of organic rural living. As she investigates these themes, Schimmel also experiments with the boundaries of wearability and curation and how these interact in the space of human encounter.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
Under the name TeYosh, the duo explores the behaviour of online networked communities. Separated from their old friends, they were able to see that social media activity was not a neutral depiction of how societies interact in a real space, but rather a highly regimented performance oriented towards different perceived versions of the “ideal” personality. Devoid of the nuances of body language, vocal inflection, and eye contact, our current social media platforms have encouraged the development of certain patterns of expression. TeYosh identify and explain these patterns in their constantly growing Dictionary of Online Behavior, which includes terms such as “clickvalue”, “forcie”, and “thrillification”. Ultimately, they aim to engender a more mindful engagement with social media and thus empower users to control the way it affects their offline identities.
TeYosh exemplifies the kind of creative practice whose scepticism, wit, and critical readings of contemporary technology drive them to look for opportunities outside tech firms or startups, in order to maintain distance and independence from their subject matter. Their chosen media range from animation and fashion to public speaking, engaging both audiences and collaborators in their overall research approach. They have also experimented with virtual reality, seizing on its ability to push the virtual-physical intersection further into the near future. Neither technophilic nor technophobic, TeYosh translate the role of the graphic designer to that of an anthropologist of experimental behaviours—one at the brink of rapid technological change.
Text: Tamar Shafrir
Since we are constantly overwhelmed with information that takes control of consciousness and alienates us from our immediate environment, Willem attempts to awaken people physically and rationally by means of apparently simple installations and activities. Their directness elicits a new understanding of basic human needs and the qualities of a place. Although the materials he uses may be mundane or found on location, Willem applies them unconventionally in order to achieve unexpected situations. His projects therefore capture attention, necessitating contact with the object, the place or other people present.
Many of Willem's designs emerge by creating, testing and building models and pursuing new paths of exploration. To provide input for these processes, he almost always collaborates with other artists and designers, who enrich his work with technical insight, narrative concepts, and an understanding of natural processes.
A good workplace that provides freedom and calm and is equipped to encourage inspiration is essential for Willem. That is why the heart of his practice is the workshop he set up at his family's farm in De Kwakel after graduating. This large creative environment packed with tools provides space for production, experimentation, and collaboration. As such, the farm is developing from a farming business into a test bed for ideas and designs. Willem has also developed guest accommodation at the farm. This enables other artists and designers to come and work on their own spatial projects or collaborations at the workshop, for example, either briefly or for a longer period. To build this accommodation, materials and remnants from the immediate farm environment were used.
More recently, Willem has invested in professionalizing his practice and development alongside his time- and place-related work. A new online presentation is an important part of this. Since his designs are not really suited as products for sale, but can be used at all kinds of events and places, a rental model has been set up. The workshop is also being gradually perfected. Willem still hopes to work on more spatial projects, possibly in collaboration with architects, museums or set designers.
Text: Mark Minkjan
Yamuna Forzani, who graduated from the Textile & Fashion department at The Hague's Royal Acad-emy of Art, celebrates ball culture in a multidisciplinary practice that combines fashion, photography, dance, installation, and social design through inclusive public events. The ball becomes a shared plat-form uniting these creative methodologies, paying homage to the balls of the 1980s while also experi-menting with new formats or themes. Her Utopia Ball Fashion Show honours the ball tradition of providing a competition structure based on multiple, complex categories of performance, from “Virgin Runway” to “Executive Realness”. This variety of categories acknowledges a history in which queer members of society have sought different modes of self-expression and self-protection, as well as a new set of contemporary aesthetics. Forzani's collection of twenty-four multi-coloured knit outfits are also debuted in the ball, interweaving the design with the real-world context that inspired it. Her collec-tion is designed not to exclude any individual but to be genderful, celebrating the multiplicity of roles and identities that we embody within social structures.
By hosting such events, Forzani enacts a design practice that celebrates her interests outside of the traditional design field; she leaves space to express her artistic and political activism, as a member of the Kiki House of Angels in the Netherlands and an international member of New York's House of Comme Des Garçons. Rather than suppressing personal perspectives in accordance with an idea of “neutral professionalism”, designers today can contribute to the most important contemporary debates, from climate change and migration to automation and privacy. Forzani's work demonstrates the imag-inative and rhetorical powers embedded within creative production, and their potential to reach far beyond the design industry.
Text: Tamar Shafrir