Graduation Fever 6:
The Design Academy Eindhoven

Issue no5
Oct-Nov 2021

Dreams precede invention, but they're very practical dreams

Custom-made Chinese silk ducks, molten plastic garden chairs and entire recipe books devoted to the art of snack are merely some examples of what the Design Academy Eindhoven 2008 Masters students had to show for their two years of independent research. The Design Academy (established in 1947) has since the 1980s conditioned young designers for a huge spectrum of design practices –including city planning as well as eco-industrial and product design – according to the mantra ‘Dreams precede invention’. And while problem-solving, which could be seen as one of design’s central premises, depends most vitally on this aspect of the fantastic, the work of the 2008 graduates situates itself in vocabularies of the everyday.

The exhibition itself is divided between floors and while this may prove confusing for first-time visitors to the academy, the spaces neatly separate the different Masters streams: Masters in Humanitarian Design and Sustainable Living and Conceptual Design in Context. The first course is guided by a ‘heart-and-mind approach’ to sustainably solving humanitarian needs while the other provides a more general inter-disciplinary design experience. This binary proves superficial however in the work of this year’s graduates and, as motivated by the openness of each category, the work of both groups transgresses the separation.

Juan Esteban Rios Delgado’s Sharing Culture, Sharing Media consists of a simple display of radio broadcasters and receivers, all constructed using basic materials including pencils and coloured tape. They are intended to challenge the monopoly of central broadcasting systems in the developing world by opening the airwaves to independent DJs and speakers wishing to exchange ideas, music and as implied by the title – culture in general.

A more melancholic take on media dominance in post-millennium global culture is provided by Charlotte Dumoncel d’Argence’s A World in Decay. Upsetting the uneasy tension between art and design d’Argence’s installation plays with the Dutch canon of still life painting by creating a vanitas to disposable news media, plastic products, electricity and quotidian aesthetics.

The graduate show’s cover boy, Hung Pin Hsueh, reclaims the disposable with his Aromatic Fabrication – an exquisitely delicate ode to the Taiwanese Cypress tree, the population of which has depleted with the recent spate of tsunamis. Using the cypress’s driftwood, Hsueh has devised a botanically based design (formally reminiscent of a plant’s xylem and phloem vessels) to be implemented in housing construction.

In a reflexive vein, Hadas Zemer’s Visitor engages with the graduate show in its entirety; providing a tagging system as a point of access for students and visitors. A floor layout is provided at the door, each exhibit tagged with a word – ‘resource’, ‘doomsday’, ‘obsession’ – guiding followers of the route to a final metal table where they are invited to add further magnetic phrases to Zemer’s tagging interface. This experiment comes as a result of Zemer’s museum studies from which she deduced a more creative interaction model for cultural institutions to communicate with their public.

The depth and breadth of each project varies distinctly and the fairly lengthy explanations accompanying each display are difficult to absorb in the viewing context. As a result some maintain the balance between concept and aesthetic better than others. Nonetheless the academy’s move towards a more ordinary, ‘conscienced’, sustainable mode of design is evident across the board in the work of its students. It will be interesting to observe if and how the academy’s design ethos will be continued after the imminent departure of ten-year director, Li Edelkoort.

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 5 — 2021