Het Nieuwe Instituut
The policy papers have been submitted to the government and this week - after almost one year in the planning stages - Het Nieuwe Instituut officially launches.
This week marks the official start of the Het Nieuwe Instituut - the organization borne out of the Netherland’s 2011 cultural funding cuts. HNI is a merger between Premsela – the Netherlands institute for design and fashion, the NAi (Netherlands Architecture Institute) and the Virtual Platform (the E-culture knowledge institute). Under the directorship of Guus Beumer the HNI has had 12 months to gather its thoughts, test out its ideas and define its vision. Beumer would have preferred this to have happened privately, “but we had no choice,” he says, “we had to do it with all eyes upon us.”
That HNI is one of the few institutes that survived the cultural funding cuts - a fact that can only colour its new outlook, and how the rest of the Netherlands will look at the creative industries.
Beumer’s focus sounds like it is going to be based around innovation. A smart decision if he can pull it off as it will avoid the discussion becoming either too predictable or formalist.
“We really started to think that if we could link innovation with the notion of conflict then we could really get an interesting discussion up and going," Beumer says.
And if innovation is about implementing new ideas, then it is also about a change in the value system – an always relevant theme.
“And if we look at things this way, then you might say that the creative industries are the last longing for progress,” Beumer continues. “I think we need to focus on innovation and how it impacts upon the individual and the consumer, which in the end is really a broader discussion about civil society.”
So the HNI will be about the times, but it will also be about things and materials a well as the notion of space – the interior and the landscape.
“I think space has become a hybrid,” says Beumer. “The divide has vanished.” As have a lot of borders – borders between inside and outside, between 2D and 3D, and even between disciplines.
“Of course this may all tragically fail,” he laughs, “but let’s at least give it a serious attempt.”
It all makes good sense considering the mainstream opinion on the street in the lead up to the funding cuts. A few too many people believed that the arts were too full of overly-funded, elitist navel gazers. And while the subsequent cuts were a disaster for the cultural world, there is no denying that the way funding was being distributed was not very smart.
HNI’s vision appears to be being quite humble in its recognition of this mistrust. It is broadening its scope and focus beyond just architecture, design and visual culture to generate discussion about issues that touch the broader public.
To mark the reopening two interesting exhibitions have started. Richard Hutten was asked to do an intervention at the Sonneveld House – a modernist masterpiece by Leendert van der Vlugt (1894-1936) from the 1930’s that sits right next door to HNI headquarters in Rotterdam. “It is beautiful building, but it is a museum and it just feels dead,” says Hutten. “It even smells bad.”
To reinvigorate the interior Hutten added an assortment of his own pieces, but in a way that pays heed to context and history. He added two of his “domoor” mugs to a shelf - ready for the two daughters of the Sonneveld family to use. A rug in the living room is replaced by his recent “playing with tradition” rug, and he specially designed a glass vase based on a 1930s design by renowned Dutch glass designer Andries Copier (1901-1991).
Hutten’s own connection to the house is strong as he’s now creative director of the Gispen furniture company and the Sonneveld House is filled entirely with furniture by Willem Hendrik Gispen (1890-1981) famous for his use of metal tubes.
“I pulled it all into 2013, but in a really natural way,” says Hutten. “A lot of the producers are the same, but today they use techniques that just were not available 75 years ago.”
This theme of the interior continues over at the HNI’s own exhibition space in “1:1 Sets for Erwin Olaf & Bekleidung”. A lot of the sets that are Erwin Olaf’s backdrops and which are designed by Floris Vos exclusively for the photographs, have been erected alongside panels of wallpaper in an integrated event curated by Belgium artist Erich Weiss.
The exhibition is not only stunning but also effective. This theme of the interior is one that connects with the mainstream and the Erwin Olaf name will attract a broader crowd who might not otherwise bother with a more typical design exhibition. And when they arrive, they will get something different to what they are probably expecting. Olaf’s photographs are there, but the main players are the real-size sets (designed by Vos) that drag these iconic images into a real and relatable domestic environment.
For the wallpaper exhibition Weiss chose to focus on contemporary wallpapers by big name artists.
“The explosion in the popularity of wallpaper can be traced back to Switzerland,” says Weiss. “So it was natural to select Olivier Mosset. I also chose General Idea, Sarah Lucas, and Stefan Brüggemann.”
Brüggemann’s design – a continual repeat of the words “Conceptual Decoration” looks at first glance like a simple black and white striped wallpaper. It is genius.
“I think this is a big statement exhibition,” says Weiss. “Guus is saying that the HNI is no longer just about architecture, but a space for the creative cultures – designers, interior designers, fashion designers, artists and creative thinkers. Its future will be more about global culture.”
The new graphic identity of the HNI also embraces this more egalitarian, anti-elitist vision.
Maureen Mooren was asked to come up with the visual identity, but rather than be the sole creative mind behind the look, she was asked instead to act more like an art director. She designed a shell, which other graphic designers can use for their own assignments.
To maintain consistency Mooren designed a sort of colophon or label that could easily be manipulated by others. Marc Hollenstein, for example, used it to create a look for the Hutten exhibition, Ben Laloua and Didier Pascal were asked to design the Erwin Olaf exhibition flyer, and Henrik Vibskov did the flags standing at the entrance to the HNI building. Mevis and Deursen did the signage for the exterior of the building based on a project they did for the 4th Architecture Biennale in the same building in 2009/2010. The words are made from a series of tube lights that are only either straight lines or circles. “Karl Nawrot did the font for them last time and they will use it again” says Mooren.
HNI has successfully embraced the different cultural disciplines. The next step is working to ensure that its programming successfully connects with a broader audience. The defined vision looks well set to achieve this.
Main image: Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, formerly the NAi
Left from top:
New logo by Maureen Mooren
Sign on facade by Mevis and Deursen
1:1 Sets for Erwin Olaf (2x)
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