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Dutch Invertuals: Matter of time

What to do with 600-year-old wood excavated from the former Eindhoven city gates? This year’s Dutch Invertuals at Dutch Design Week showed us how by pulverising it to make paper, fashioning it into medieval tools and arms or visualising its movements the low-tech way. 

By Jeanne Tan / 03-11-2010

For Dutch Design Week, this year’s Dutch Invertuals – a collective exhibition featuring emerging talents – were given a brief to work with wood: not just any old wood, but 600-year-old oak wood which was once part of the city gates of Eindhoven.

Scattered around town, lie archaeological sites with remains of wooden piles which once supported bridges integral to the city’s defence lines. The piles are well preserved but due to centuries of being buried in the ground, the wood is stained almost black. Some piles have been excavated, others are buried underground but remain standing upright. Sections of this wood eventually found its way into the hands of Dutch Invertuals curator Wendy Plomp, which inspired the exhibition Matter of Time.

Eight design studios were commissioned to create new work from the wood, each taking a different approach. For some, the wood was reused to create new furniture or objects. Daphna Isaacs & Laurens Manders explored the meaning of the wood as a support: 600 years ago for the city gates and today as a series of table legs – which pierce through the glass tabletop – that composed together, map out the archaeological sites of the wood. Max Lipsey’s exquisite series of medieval tools illustrates an artisanal way of working, enabling the creation of more tools to be able to create more tools. The medieval theme manifest itself in Julien Carretero’s pieces as contemporary versions of medieval arms including a rather impressive catapult, which were once not an uncommon sight on the bridges during medieval battles. Carolina Wilcke transformed the wood into a series of tactile objects to experience the material; to be able to really touch, hear and smell it.

Others highlighted the less visible qualities of the wood. Installed in a playful fashion, Edhv’s ‘Drawn by Time’ objects resembled curious insects composed of a horizontal sliced section of wood as the body attached with pencils as legs. The graphic design practice  – whose studio was temporarily transformed into a gallery for the exhibition – acted as ‘mad archaeologists’ trying to document the movement of the wood as it reacted to its temperature and surroundings. The pencil legs of the animal move with every millimetre that the wood contracts or expands, gradually creating an intriguing scrawl to give a glimpse into the personality of the wood.    

In all the projects, the wood is recognisable as a solid, grained material, in most cases sanded smooth. However Raw Color used technology and craft to reuse the wood in a somewhat, more controversial way: it was pulverised into smithereens to create paper. The wood from one plank was first ground up into sawdust – creating 5.5kg of the stuff – to be mixed with abaca fibre resulting in a black pulp. The long abaca fibres enable good absorption of the black sawdust in order to create the characteristic grey colour of the paper. Working in collaboration with an artisanal paper maker, around 400-500 sheets of paper were produced. But the story doesn’t end there. What to do with the paper? The duo – Daniera ter Haar and Christoph Brach – sliced up a pile into sections, photographed a selection of pieces and mapped their year rings in the computer. These files were then sent to a CNC milling machine – whose blade was replaced with a black pen – that ‘grows’ the year rings onto the paper. While the original state of wood might no longer be recognisable, through the paper and drawings, the memory of its essence remains.

This year’s Dutch Invertuals are: Carolina Wilcke, Daphna Isaacs & Laurens Manders, Edhv, Juliette Warmenhoven, Julien Carretero, Max Lipsey, Mieke Meijer and Raw Color.

Images in order: exhibition entrance, Daphna Isaacs & Laurens Manders, Carolina Wilcke, Julien Carretero, Max Lipsey, Edhv, Raw Color and an excavation site

Click on the images to enlarge

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