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Design Academy Eindhoven Graduation Galleries Part II

Social design, a respect for the environment and a push to better realize just how dominant computers and technology are in our lives characterize part II of our Graduation Galleries review.  Some work pursues a quintessentially Dutch path while others break free from expectations and force us to rethink our relationships with products.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 03-11-2009

Ideas abound in the rest of the best of Design Academy Eindhoven graduates.

Florian de Visser likes to use cardboard and paper to tell stories.  For “Continuo - Endless Storytelling” his subject was the weekly Thursday morning ritual for retailers in Eindhoven who put their empty cardboard boxes on the street outside their shops.  The boxes are collected by trucks, compressed into bales and shipped to China where they are reused to package products that will eventually be exported back to the Netherlands.

To breathe life into this bizarre situation, De Visser used the cardboard to make models of major events that have shaped Eindhoven’s past.  When he was finished, he returned the boxes to the dumping site and when the garbage trucks arrived, the narratives were reintroduced to the cycle.  In a sort of archeological paper exploration it is possible to decopher stamps and tickets on some boxes that tell something of where they have journeyed back and forth from.

To further capture the spirit of this scene, De Visser then made a more delicate paper installation that physically reveals the ongoing, never ending recycling stream of packaging, purchasing, and disposing.  For this, he graduated cum laude from the Man and Public Space department.

“This project is more about research,” De Visser says.  “I spent a lot of time looking at what actually happens and where everything actually goes.  The result works like an architectural model that tells a story about space but also behaviour within that space.”

Alice Schwab’s “Living Graphics” explores the complexity of social networking in visual form.  “People come and go, you have a different relationship with everyone you know, and the many methods of communication make this still even more complicated,” says Schwab.

The wall hanging can be used to disentangle social networks on the basis of emotional instincts.  Distance, blood ties, the frequency and the type of contact can all be mapped out.

Floris Douma’sSelf Surveillance” is a reaction to the hours and hours he spent each day at his computer.  To make this bond more concrete, he let himself be monitored for a whole week by his Mac, which registered every webpage he visited, every online conversation he had, and every film he watched.  Meanwhile, the webcam took a photo every minute.  All the data were processed into a digital installation – an enormous 3 by 7 meter poster presenting around 10 000 photos of his computer life.  Projected over this were statistics or search projects, chats and emails. 

“My teachers [from the Man and Communication Department] were delighted with this,” Douma says, “because it’s a real issue for people of my age.  We spend so much time with computers.  It’s like an obsession.”

But the point wasn’t to scare people, but rather to hold up a mirror so they could visually grapple with their own realities.

Douma has been recommended to the Domus Academy in Milan where he plans to do post-graduate work in interaction design.

Janina Loeve is concerned that personal water usage has increased to 126 liters per person per day.  “I think that’s because we no longer see water as something that is precious,” she says.  “When we turn the tap on, it flushes straight away down the drain.”

To combat this lack of consciousness, Loeve designed a wash basin with a ceramic tap that helps users to visualize the trajectory of water and in so doing extends the distance that the water travels before running away. 

“I really started to become irritated that a conventional tap makes it difficult to use your water consciously,” says Loeve who graduated from the Man and Leisure Department.  Her obstacle was that she wanted it to be both conceptual and functional.  “That makes it quite difficult because you are imposing limits on yourself and you end up getting criticism from teachers who maybe expect it be one or the other.”

“From Fable to Table” by Amélie Onzon of the Man and Wellbeing Department is all about human choices – will you use her objects to produce foie gras, or will you use them to give ducks a more pleasant life?

Onzon wanted to highlight the very contradictory relationship we have with animals.  “We domesticate them to cuddle and then we kill them to eat,” she says.  Her objects are functional – a funnel and stool set can be used to force feed ducks in a traditional way, or the funnel can be used to drip water through to soften bread for the ducks’ enjoyment.  This project is more about what might be called statement design.  “I’m trying to illustrate a point not shock people,” she says.  “My point was to encourage people to react to my objects using their true feeling, which in turn will help to show how ambivalent our relationship with animals is.”

While Onzon’s teachers were very supportive of her work, they warned her that she had to be careful due to the sensitivity of the topic.  “Foie gras is a very violent issue,” she says.  “We all agreed that it is no use to just shock people for the sake of it. In the end, it is supposed to be about understanding our own contradictions.”

Tess van Hooff from the Man and Public Space Department designed “Hokjesdenken”, a more typically Dutch take on design, which was a definite crowd favourite. “Hokjesdenken” is a clever interpretation on Friedrich Hundertwasser’s quote: “A window must not cut off the essence from the outside world.  Every passer-by must be able to see that here lives a person.”

In order to personalize anonymous residential blocks, Van Hooff designed a series of balconies that contain social design elements that say something about the apartment’s inhabitants - there is a beer crate holder for students, a bike rack for a cyclist, a goal for a football fan, a cross for Christians and even connecting ladders for neighbours engaging in illicit affairs.

“I got the idea while living in Paris, which is a really anonymous city,” says Van Hooff.  “But I think there are parts of Holland and especially the Plattenbau style of housing in Germany where this could really work.  Really, it just needs an anonymous building.” Together with fellow graduate Jitske Blom, Van Hooff is now opening her own studio called Studio Twaalf.

Katinka Versendaal’s “Pop-Up” project is about questioning reality.  “As people are subjective themselves, reality cannot be perceived objectively,” she says.  “Therefore there is no reality.”

On the basis of this conclusion, Versendaal went looking for artists who distort and transform reality, which led her to M. C. Escher.  His work inspired her to make unrealistic volumes.  Initially she had the idea to design a completely empty room where everything from decoration to furniture could pop up.  To make it more manageable, she created a table with hidden objects like a fruit bowl, a lamp and candlesticks that literally pop up out of an otherwise standard looking table.

Versendaal graduated from the Man and Activity Department, the most strictly functional department in the academy.  “The teachers liked the project even though it is probably more conceptual than functional,” she says.  “It is about aesthetic and fairy tale with a suggestion of function, but everything works. My goal was to show that normal shapes and architectural objects can be out of the ordinary.”


Images - top page Floris Douma's "Self Surveillance" with photo by Damian Thomas
This page main image - Florian de Visser's "Continuo-Endless Storytelling"
Small from top:
Florian de Visser
Alice Schwab's "Living Graphics" with photo by Damian Thomas
Floris Douma's "Self Surveillance" with photo by Damian Thomas
Janina Loeve's "Delta, The Way of Water"
Amélie Onzon's "From Fable to Table"
Tess van Hooff’s “Hokjesdenken” with photo by Damian Thomas
Katinka Versendaal’s “Pop-Up”

With thanks to Damian Thomas of Rubberneckphotos.

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