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DesignTalks at DesignMarch, Reykjavík

Today sees the start of DesignMarch, Iceland’s key annual design festival and two Dutch creatives are participating in the talks.

By Katie Dominy /asdf 22-03-2012

Food designer Marije Vogelzang and artist and scientist Koert van Mensvoort are among the guest speakers on this session’s DesignTalks theme of cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Managed this year by Icelandic interaction designer Edda Kristin Sigurjonsdottir, the DesignTalks lectures aim this year to promote design as an intertwined thread through all layers of society, hence the title of cross-disciplinary collaboration. asked Sigurjonsdottir her reasons for asking Marije Vogelzang to speak at DesignTalks. “Marije´s talk is called: 'Food design is shit’ and refers to the core of her work, designing of edible products – where food is a material to evoke emotions and memories. The core of the talk is about the emotional, sociological and creative view of the act of eating.

“Marije’s way of thinking and working and her philosophy is - at its core - of a cross-disciplinary nature. In her work, she focuses on food as a material like any other, but one with special and unique qualities that travel through long cycles. Marije taps into the science behind memories and emotions, agricultural speculations, culture studies, experience and interaction design, anthropology if you wish and, of course, cooking. It is, in fact, hard to define where her work starts and ends, which is why indeed her input to DesignTalks is particularly relevant.”

We asked Vogelzang for an example of her work that tapped into this design with memories and she chose the example of War Food. “’It looked like black confetti’ - the ashes falling down the sky after the WWII bombardment of Rotterdam seen trough the eyes of a child. For the opening of an exhibition about WWII, I asked the National Resistance Museum for original war recipes. We prepared the dishes according to the recipes but served them as hors ‘d oeuvres. Some survivors of the war (children back then) came and tasted the food. They hadn’t tasted this food in over 60 years. Some food brought back forgotten memories of that time. For me it was a very emotional, but precious project.”

And for Sigurjonsdottir, the choice of Koert van Mensvoort?

“Koert is the only lecturer who is not a designer – his thoughts on shifting relationship between nature and man, technology and man are a wonderful contribution to the DesignTalks. Not only are his projects an eye-opener and reminder of the importance of critical thinking in today’s society, but an important and interesting dialogue about the big context we are all part of. This is very interesting in Iceland that has a small population of around 330, 000 but a vast land where the power and production capacity of the individual may be even more valuable than in a city of multi-millions.”

With cross-disciplinary collaboration the underlying theme of the talks this year, Koert will inspire the audience with thoughts on hybrid practices and his recent Nano Supermarket project.

We asked van Mensvoort about this project: “In the Nano Supermarket project we bring together technologists, artists and designers to create speculative nanotechnology products that might hit the shelves within the next ten years. Here design is used to make abstract emerging technologies tangible for a large audience and stimulate societal debate. This project has involved actual events where the Nano Supermarket lorry or ‘Nanopodium’ has drawn up into town filled with objects such as the Bio-electricity Bonsai (sustainable energy from plants) and Organic Glam (mood responsive make-up).

Alongside Nano Supermarket, van Mensvoort will also talk about the Next Nature network that explores the changing relationships between people, nature and technology, hosting events as well as initiating publications online and in print. As it notes on the website’s homepage: ‘With our urge to design our environment we create a ‘next nature’ which is unpredictable as ever: wild software, genetic surprises, autonomous machinery and splendidly beautiful black flowers. Nature changes along with us!’

We asked van Mensvoort about the merits of cross-disciplinary collaboration.

“I have studied computer science, media arts and philosophy and I am currently active in the hybrid space between these disciplines. For me it is very natural to work across disciplines, it happens all by itself. Cross-disciplinary collaboration allows us to envision and do things that are not happening otherwise. Yet there are also risks: A failed cross-disciplinary collaboration only leads to superficial results. When disciplines meet, it is crucial to have a respect for the things that are important within the individual disciplines.”

DesignMarch runs March 22-25 2012 in Reykjavík

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