Installation view WDKA Graduation Show 2020/2021, paintings on the right: Adara Godschalk, photo: Manuela Zammit

Graduation Shows 2021­–  Willem de Kooning Academie Rotterdam

Issue no4
Aug- Sep 2023
inkomen & eindexamens 2023

Over the course of this weekend, five whole floors in the building of the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam were taken over by the graduation projects of over 150 students who completed their studies between 2020 and 2021. Manuela Zammit picks a handful of projects that piqued her eyes.

As I walk into the Academy, I’m welcomed by a flurry of activity and an infectious festive atmosphere happening on the main floor that I’ve come to associate with graduation shows. I decide to head down to the basement and work my way up. Just as expected, by the end of my visit it is simply impossible to group, categorise or in any way get a full grip on the vast array of concepts, topics and materials that the graduates have been engaging with, so I’ve decided to pick just a handful of projects from various disciplines that piqued my eyes, spoke to my interests or somehow stood out. Having said that, a huge congratulations to all fresh graduates is in order. It will be so exciting to see what you’ll do and where you’ll end up next.

Have you ever seen a 145-metre long zebra crossing? After Lieke Muis Van der Meer took to the streets to interrogate the current use of public space in Rotterdam, she found out that a lot of it is not so public after all, due to the city’s car-centric mobility system. In her project ‘Zebra Machine’, she identifies the zebra crossing, as a space of negotiation between pedestrians and cars, as symptomatic of car-centrism. So she took to the streets again, this time at 5am with a custom-built painting machine, and redrew the zebra crossing - vertically along the whole street, inviting everyone to go their own way, whichever direction that is.

Lieke Muis van der Meer, ‘Zebra Machine’ (Spatial Design), photo: Manuela Zammit

I’m always around for some Vaporwave vibes. Maria Mombers’ neon-lit and neat-grid floor installation stands in for a wider research project designed as a workshop in collaboration with MAMA Rotterdam. ‘(create ur)Paradiz’ poses the question, “What would your ideal virtual world look like?” inviting 13-23 year-old digital natives to respond by collecting and placing content, including 3D models, GIFS, images and music pieces, in the VR platform Mozilla.

Maria Mombers, ‘(create ur)Paradiz’ (Illustration), photo: Manuela Zammit

De Zoete’s phenomenological research stems from personal experience working in a pig slaughterhouse. The installation, modelled after a 12-legged pig toy seen in stables and designed to reduce aggressive behaviour among the animals, is made out of repurposed materials that originate from the slaughterhouse. At first the object looks like some sort of alien device awaiting activation, but in the end its power source, for me, was the moment when I found out where its components came from and looked at it again, still fascinated and perhaps slightly unnerved.

Amrith de Zoete, ‘Foreign Object Material’ (Graphic Design), photo: Manuela Zammit

Amber Witte’s outfits are not merely clothes, but also conversation starters and aesthetically pleasing exhibition pieces that comment on wasteful pattern-making in the fashion industry and possible alternatives. Witte skilfully combines fashion with spatial design, employing the process of making and the finished garment as a way to state the facts, while occupying space with her object through installation and performance to narrate the possible reversal of industry practices. What’s more, her piece which made out of hemp fabric, can be separated into three clothing items - a dress, a jacket and a pair of trousers.

Amber Witte, ‘Back to Zero PII’ (Fashion Design), photo: Manuela Zammit

“Go back to the kitchen and make me a sandwich.” What sounds like an outdated sexist insult is very much a current reality still faced by women in the world of online gaming. Sterke, a gamer herself, made a short film to show the experience of female gamers who are sexually harassed and are made to feel unwelcome when gaming online, once their gender is revealed upon speaking through voice chat. Shooter games are among the most common games in which female gamers experience harassment or sexism, so Sterke also developed a series of weapons - not unlike the ones found in the games themselves - to equip women against their harassers. Wouldn’t want to get caught in that crossfire!

Hannah Sterke, ‘Go Back to the Kitchen’ (Advertising and Beyond), photo: Manuela Zammit

How can memories be translated visually? Frank Stok drew from memories, thoughts and dreams about his mother who passed away 14 years ago, to create a series of six large paintings that expressed stories and emotions from these experiences. Stok’s mother’s physical absence and intangible presence in the way she remains alive in his memory today, are central to his body of work.

Frank Stok, ‘Fornever’ (Animation), photo: Manuela Zammit

The WDKA Graduation Show 2020 & 2021 took place between Thursday 27 and Saturday 30 October

Manuela Zammit
is a writer and researcher

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 4 — 2023