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Sandberg Institute wins Be Open award in Basel

Proud of Holland is the title of Yuri Veerman’s winning entry: the Dutch national anthem sung in Moroccan accompanied by a wall-mounted head scarf, which is on show during Design Miami/Basel.

By Cassandra Pizzey / 15-06-2012

From six renowned European art academies, the Sandberg Institute won the first Be Open Inside the Academy award in Basel this week. The prize is a chance to fly in a number of international speakers and organize a series of lectures at the institute, something that will be beneficial to the entire school.

Be Open is a Russian foundation which acts as a creative think tank, aiming to stimulate innovation by looking towards design education. At Design Miami/Basel an exhibition and talk present and discuss the current state of art education, focussing on innovation, design research and its core values especially.

Dutch design critic Lucas Verweij moderated a talk at Design Miami/ Basel featuring head of the jury Ron Arad, jury member Daniel Charny and Jurgen Bey of the Sandberg Institute. “Just a week ago at DMY Berlin, I was part of an expert meeting with thirty educators”, says Verweij. “The Basel talk was a great way to continue discussing these matters.” During the lively debate the creatives discussed various matters concerning design education such as ‘how do designers think’, ‘what is their position today’, ‘what is expected of teachers’ and ‘what can students expect from design education’.

Living in North-Western Europe we are fortunate to have some of the best design schools around – the Netherlands being no exception.

According to Verweij its our understanding of our own qualities and weaknesses which sets North-Western Europe apart from other parts of the world. Students look mostly to themselves for answers and are motivated, “and our focus is towards the art academies”.

He continues: “In the Netherlands, we gain some two to three new Master courses a year (from which typically just five people graduate). But looking at new economies such as China, India, Russia and Brazil, they have an enormous growth in bachelor courses, mostly to European education models. It’s turning places such as Taiwan from production state into design state.”

With a lot of design stepping away from the traditional art academies and into the spheres of management and development courses, do the speakers feel at all threatened by this shift? No is the answer, for design is not only focussed towards the traditional artistic side of the spectrum dealing with creative problem solving. Nowadays there are many different forms of design which won’t necessarily profit from art education.

Back to the award winner now and Yuri Veerman’s video of a woman singing the Dutch national anthem in Moroccan. A very socio-political statement lies within the entry as it poses the question whether the way certain rites and rituals are presented or performed, can change their meaning.

“I am happy these two projects were nominated”, says Veerman. “They are good export products for the Netherlands.”

The video is accompanied by a headscarf (The Third Dimension), a common symbol for Islamic culture, displayed unfolded as an ordinary piece of fabric hung on the wall.  “Isn’t it great that a headscarf travelled all the way form Amsterdam to Basel to be shown in an exhibition? I like to uncover things through simple actions, all I did was nail a head scarf to the wall.”

Veerman continues: “After all the debates about headscarfs, it was good to go to a market and actually buy one. If you delve a little deeper into the culture, you’ll see how it isn’t a one dimensional thing. The same goes for the national anthem. Nobody would have minded if it was translated to say, French. I’m sad people have reacted negatively to something so beautiful.”

From the six participating schools, Sandberg showed the most artistic and publicly accessible display along with the other two entries Untitled (Model for a Floating Forest) by Jorge Bakker and Manon van Trier’s Bubble Gum Wallpaper.

Finally, we asked Verweij whether he feels students have a rightful place at fairs such as Design Miami/Basel.

“It’s not so much the students as the schools who present themselves and its part of their branding. Where you present yourself – Basel, Milan, Berlin – is an important factor, but every school needs to attract new students. As Ron Arad said ‘the most important part of the year is choosing student portfolios’. But to be able to pick the best students, you need excess submissions. Fairs seem to be the best place to recruit new students.”

 Other participating schools were the Swiss Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne (ECAL), Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst (Switzerland), Konstfack University College of Arts (Sweden), Crafts and Design, La Cambre (Belgium) and Glasgow School of Art (Scotland).
Main image: Proud of Holland by Yuri Veerman
Other images: 1. Exhibition overview 2. Jorge Bakker 3. Manon van Trier 4. Ron Arad 5. Jorge Bakker 6. Yuri Veerman 

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