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Design Academy Eindhoven #DDW12

Fewer products, and a modest albeit slightly tentative step into a new and unknown era was on show at the Design Academy Eindhoven’s Graduation Show.

By Gabrielle Kennedy /asdf 24-10-2012

This year the DAE”s “Up Close Wide Open” show started with a few glitches.  Budget cuts explain why no information pads were provided.  Ever since I can remember visitors could rip off and store away an informative blurb on each project. 

Design is hard to exhibit at the best of times, losing these vital descriptions made it even harder – especially when work was left unattended thus making it impossible for visitors to get any sort of explanation.

Still, there was some good and very thoughtful work.

Jaenah Jung from South Korea was raised believing that communism was the arch en
emy and capitalism was all good.  “It is a very black and white subject where I come from,” she says. 

But the current state of the world and the inequitable distribution of wealth has left Jung feeling much less certain of this simplistic divide. She designed a series of objects based on traditional North Korean shapes, but gave users the power to change and manipulate the structures.  The people gain power and a voice by personalizing the system.

Jung says her time at the Design Academy taught her a new way to look at design.  “I had no idea that anything like this could even exist,” she says.  “I learned more about concepts, process and contextual design."

Hikaru Imamura started working on her graduation project before the Fukushima disaster in 2010, but came to Eindhoven and was immediately influenced and inspired to do more experimental and conceptual work.

When the earthquake broke, however, she felt too connected to the tragedy to continue along that path.  Her mother and friends were working in Fukushima at the site in disaster relief and sent her daily text messages about the scene.  She became consumed with the idea of designing more prosaic and practical things that could make an immediate difference.

Her Heat Rescue Disaster Recovery project is a series of metal drums that contain disaster relief goods.  Once the goods are removed the drums can be transformed on site into stoves.  “A heat source can be a vital difference to survivors,” Imamura explains.  “It provides physical warmth, hot water for eating and sterilization.”

Imamura wants to stay working on her own design work in the Netherlands, but her visa expires in December and she says it can not be renewed.

Asnate Bockis also had disaster relief in mind with her two projects that both started with a social function but could morph into survival objects when water levels become unmanageable.

First a public bench that inclines upwards so can be used as a small island refuge. Also, a beanbag that turns into a floating vessel. 

Eva Storck from the Man and Communications department battled the anonymous and often vile voice of the Internet.  “On the Net boorish bad mouthing scores more points than informed opinions,” she explains.  “The problem is that there are no personal consequences for the user.”

To communicate this she designed an entire edition of NRC Handelsblad, one of the Netherland’s preeminent newspapers with stories composed solely from anonymous messages she found online. 

For example: “Barbertjehangt: People say they don't care, because they've got nothing to hide, but I refuse to be treated like a criminal. What is Neelie thinking? She's a bad old bitch, Peper's ex and she thinks she can make us wear a muzzle. Demolish the EU!"

“That was a comment following a news item about the proposed Internet ID card for Europeans” explains Storck.  “It was a an idea put forward by the 'Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.”

Storck’s point is that anonymous hatred does not come without social consequences. “Anonymous online behaviour influences offline perceptions of the news,” she says.  “I call it the digital butterfly effect.  We have to be aware that how we communicate online affects how we communicate offline.  I am worried this easy and anonymous rudeness too easily transfers to real life.”

When Saskia Nunez Reyero’s parents uprooted her from Spain and brought her to the Netherlands, she was never really given the room to be Dutch.  Rather, her parents took her back for annual reminders of who she was and where she came from.  In “A Little Confession” Reyero finally summoned the courage to admit to her parents that she is a Dutch woman.

Via a raw and quite dark set of illustrations Reyero reveals how tough it was for a girl, an angel to her papa, to balance her two identities.  She worked to disguise her Dutchness within the family until one day she just had to come clean.

Another illustration by Sonia Kneepkens “Inside of Me” is about how cancer patients have a difficult time expressing their grief and fear to loved ones and family.  Kneepken translates these feelings into a series of drawings that make complex and painful emotions visible and therefore easier to understand.

Aleksandra Szymanska also focused on social design.  She created garments that help people connect emotionally even when separated. 

“One garment is threaded with conductive thread that works as a capacitive sensor,” Szymanska says.  “It recognizes touch and will send a message to the other wearer whose garment contains a heating element that switches on in response to the signal.  The point is to offer emotional comfort.”

This was a common theme amongst many of the graduates – the isolation and alienation individuals feel in the face of modern reality.  “I like that this is more intuitive communication than social media,” Szymanska says.  “It is a different type of language that I feel can bring you closer rather than distancing you even further from your friends.  On social media you really are not communicating with anybody.”

Niko Leung used the copy culture phenomenon that has been gaining some momentum over the past year or two to design functional objects based on a Buddhist drum form she saw in a Japanese magazine.  Each of the new objects exhibit similar shapes and motifs as the drum but have more everyday usable functions. 

“I like Asian folk objects and so I wanted to see if I could imitate in an indirect way,” Leung says.  “If you copy  indirectly, can you see other things?” 

Jody Kocken in one of the more commercially viable projects created an exquisite solution to her own personal dilemma with perfume – she is allergic.   Using a slate of marble as base, she designed a wooden drawer underneath and a metal dome above.  Under the dome is a flask of perfume and in the drawer are tiny tools that can be used to transfer perfume into small felt tips that slide into vials. These fit into sections of the designed jewellery pieces. 

The various jewellery pieces hang close to the skin over parts of the body that generate heat – behind the ear, the wrist, the base of neck.  This warms the perfume allowing it to diffuse through perforations.  

“It is a nice contrast between the poetic scent and the more industrial jewellery,” Kocken says. 

Saskia Nunez Reyero
Side from top to bottom: Jaenah Jung, Hikaru Imamura, Asnate Bockis (2x), Eva Storck(2x), Saskia Nunez Reyero (2x), Sonia Kneepkens (2x), Aleksandra Szymanska, Niko Leung and Jody Kocken (2x)

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