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Design by Performance at Z33

Design by Performance explores the design trend for projects that focus on the production process itself rather than the finished product.

By Katie Dominy /asdf 25-03-2010

Z33, Centre for Contemporary Art & Design in Hasselt, Belgium, has curated an exhibition that explores the merging links between art and experimental design. The ‘performative’ design chosen for the show, come from projects in which the process is the driving factor behind the result.

As Z33 note: "We can observe a shift from passive to active experiencing and creating of objects. The final product remains important, but the process leading to this end result becomes at least as important." This process includes the element of chance or serendipity – from the weather, human or animal intervention, or even by the behaviour of onlookers.  

The centre's aim is to convert ‘what is otherwise a pure ‘exhibition space’ into a space for events, interventions and actions by designers, artists and the public.’ For Design by Performance, 19 design studios are represented including nine Dutch or Dutch/UK participants - Atelier NL, Maarten Baas,  Pieke Bergmans, Edhv, Simon Heijdens, Eric Klarenbeek, Studio Glithero, Studio Libertiny and Tjep..

Z33 has also commissioned work for the exhibition, including Running Mould from Studio Glithero which is an installation that was designed and constructed on site. Z33 explains: "Wet plaster was poured onto the floor and pressed through a big wooden ‘running mould’ until a perfect plaster extrusion forms, layer upon layer, into the shape of a perfectly circular bench."

For Sarah van Gameren and Tim Simpson of Studio Glithero, "the inspiration comes from the world of cornice making. This is, in England, a real craft that has existed for many years. Ceiling roses and corner decorations are usually made in the same way as we make our bench. We became aware of this skill after visiting a plaster company for another project. We immediately saw the possibility for a bench or table in situ.”

We asked Studio Glithero about the importance of the on-site part of the process. “It is essential in various ways. First of all because the process of the making of bench moulds or cornices is historically done in situ. The shape never leaves the workshop of the plasterer. The mould is used as a mother-mould for the shapes that eventually end up on the ceiling. Secondly, because we are intrigued by the conception of objects that then are unable to leave the space through doors or windows anymore.  We find it a refreshing way of thinking about design after decades of trying to make objects more efficient and stackable to better fit into a lorry to send to the customer.”

Studio Glithero also brought the Panta Rei project to the exhibition; an automatic candle-making machine. Endlessly rotating, an arm fixed to the ceiling lowers candle wicks in buckets of hot wax so that they slowly grow into a candle, layer by layer - a 'magical' machine that ‘performs’ a choreographed  production process.

Katja Huismans, project manager of Edhv, explained the group’s installation for Z33 entitled Debug in which using tracking software, the movement patterns of different insects kept in glass cases are mapped out. The complex motion patterns are unique for every insect and are transmitted to a printer that instantly prints them out. “With Debug we were interested in the walking patterns of the different insects available in our surroundings and how they react to obstacles along their path, and, also, the question of how we could influence these creatures to create interesting artwork.”

Huismans continues: "Debug is a piece that is constantly developing in both software and concept. The project is also part of a larger research by Edhv on 'Organic and Reactive Identities."  

How important is the on-site part of the process? “Essentially the machine can only operate 'live': we need living insects in our installation to create posters. Also, the insects trigger the printer on a given condition, currently based upon the walking time or the total number of lines drawn. The on-site aspect is also interesting because of the response and reactions from the visitors. And the behaviour of the visitors results in a different behaviour from the insects. Many times we have had to ask visitors to 'not tap the glass', because seed beetles tend to play dead when the glass is tapped."

Other Dutch designers at the show include Atelier NL, showcasing its Sleeping Beauty lamp that knits its own shade while its switched on and Maarten Baas with Sweeper Clock: a film-clock which people act out time. In addition look out for Unlimited Edition vases and Light Blubs from Pieke Bergmans, the Lightweeds light installation by Simon Heijdens, Eric Klarenbeek’s Work Survey video and Lucid Dream hand-blown glass bubbles, Studio Libertiny’s Honeycomb Vase and Paper Vases and Tjep.’s Do Break and Shockproof vases.
Design by Performance runs until 30 May at Z33, Hasselt, Belgium.

Photography credits images 8&9: Kristof Vrancken

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