Could we classify the luxuriant growth of objects as we do a flora or a fauna, complete with tropical and glacial species, sudden mutations, and varieties threatened by extinction?
The theme of the exhibition Variability - happening as part of the London Design Festival - explores the fact that, as opposed to the past where dominant styles may have characterized a certain time period, today, many different movements are all happening simultaneously: sometimes parallel to one another, other times intersecting and sometimes also colliding head on with each other. Personal stories and contexts often influence strongly in the processes and outcomes of this work.
"The theme of the show is something that has come about when thinking about what movements are going on in design at this moment," explains Dutch designer Henny van Nistelrooy who co-produced the exhibition. "The late 90s and early 2000s were dominated by the conceptual approach towards design, slowly and shortly turning into 'designart' and a limited edition trend. Over the last years though we see many, much smaller movements coming up. But without one being really more on the forefront than the other."
Variability highlights twelve emerging designers including five from the Netherlands - all of whom have studied at the RCA - each with a very different approach. With a focus on how objects are created and experienced - both from an emotion and functional perspective - the exhibition features work ranging from furniture, lighting, textiles and ceramics to graphic design and concepts, exploring the dialogue that these different processes create. The exhibition is hosted in a stark, disused office space which contrasts with the more experimental nature of the work. "We have in our show ceramic designers, textile, product and graphic designers all working somehow in the realm of product design. All have a very open approach to what design is and what it can be and they're willing to share their knowledge. This helps to lift the individual projects to a higher level." How were the designers selected? "It was an attitude towards working; open and communicative and this reflects in the work," Van Nistelrooy continues.
Focusing on the development of technologically advanced textiles in product design, London-based Van Nistelrooy (Studio HVN) created the half-textile half-product object Fabricate. "This textile contains light shades that are woven as 'pockets' in a cloth. The pockets can be cut from the fabric in different elements. Designed to fit a standard fitting with simple wire frame, these pockets transform into light shades." The textile is woven from cotton and nylon yarn into long pieces of fabric, after which the 'pockets' can be cut into individual shades as needed or remain as a trio. The fabric is specially designed to be used in combination with low energy lightbulbs.
Emphasising the possibilities of variation within a single product, Unit 30 (Willem van Landeghem and Jozephine Duker) devised MICXUP, a series of stackable bone-china cups. From a two-part mould, there exists 12 patterns which can cast 144 combinations, making a total of 864 pieces. "The project evolved from a systematic way of working. With a relatively small amount of moulds, which are interchangeable, a huge variety of cups is created," explain the designers.
Bas Kools' project took a conceptual approach, questioning what contemporary notions of Utopia might be. "My question is how this concept (of Utopia) lives and is being lived today, how Utopian ideas become part of the way we work and how the future of the concept of utopia looks like," says Kools. Thinking about how Utopia could be utilized in practice, the intention is to create a map of visions to help guide policy makers or creatives in the designing of solutions for 21st century issues. The project comprises an interview series - which documents attitudes towards Utopia today - and an interactive game which was installed for Variability, which will trigger visitors to investigate the subject of Utopia via a 3D info graphic.
The participating designers are: Bas Kools, David Weatherhead, Henny van Nistelrooy, Inca Starzinsky, Julia (Valerio Di Lucente, Erwan Lhuissier and Hugo Timm), Jochem Faudet & Yemi Awosile, Liliana Ovalle, Simon Donald, Thomas Wagner, Vahakn Matossian, Victoria Willmotte and Willem van Landeghem & Jozephine Duker.
Variability is showing as part of the Brompton Design District.
Main image and image 1: Henny van Nistelrooy
Image 2+3: Unit 30
Image 4: Bas Kools
Image 5: Jochem Faudet & Yemi Awosile
Image 6: David Weatherhead
Image 7+9: Julia
Image 8: Vahakn Matossian
Photography: Fenella Mett
Click on the images to enlarge
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