As part of its ‘Design in Boijmans’ programme, the exhibition New Energy in Design and Art is currently on show alongside the Rotterdam design prize and two smaller exhibitions or interventions.
“The exhibition doesn’t merely look at a bunch of objects as sometimes happens.” says conservator Annemartine van Kesteren. We chose the subject for this show through topics discussed on the front page of the newspaper. It’s a theme which engages not only the public, but designers and artists too.”
Divided over seven categories (Machines, Construction, Nature, Sources, Life, Time and Light) the exhibition shows how artists and designers have developed their own ideas about a sustainable society.
Walking through the various exhibition rooms, it’s clear to see Van Kesteren hasn’t stuck to the standard visions of sustainable energy and green design. “A number of designers and artists approach the sustainable debate in a somewhat alternative manner. Therefore the objects presented here are not standard, sometimes even a little unsettling.” She could be hinting towards Blood Lamp by Mike Thompson or Half life lamp by Joris Laarman, which both look to the human body or organisms for new possibilities to harvest energy.
A host of designers give us their impression of conscious design in the form of lighting (Studio Drift), transportation (Studio Makkink & Bey) or even solar-panel-driven machines (Mischer’traxler).
“Boijmans is a Dutch museum and of course we wanted to present and promote Dutch design, but it’s also about placing objects in an international context. So about fifty percent of the pieces are Dutch.”
“It’s interesting to see how various designers inspire each other- albeit unconsciously. Gradually, themes begin to reveal themselves and we can piece together the puzzle.” Of the selected designers Van Kesteren says: “Most are young new designs, many are borrowed from other museums but some are from the Boijmans collection.”
And what of the art vs. design debate? “The role designers play has definitely changed. They used to look for answers to problems and create objects to match. Now it’s much more about a thought process. Design as a catalyst for discussion. Take Afterlife by Auger-Loizeau for instance,” indeed, no cookie-cutter answer here but a thought-provoking, practical view of the afterlife.
Visitors to the exhibition have mostly reacted positively to the way works have been presented in an open and sometimes surprising manner. “Visitors to the exhibition shouldn’t come looking for answers to ecological questions but they will see what the implications of certain technical products can be for instance.”
Photography: Lotte Stekelenburg
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