Wendy Plomp, the curator and mind behind the annual Invertuals collective and exhibition always manages a little dose of magic.
After last year’s “Untouchables” project Wendy Plomp gave her selected group of Invertuals designers the theme of conflict. “We are confronted by conflict on a daily basis,” Plomp explains. “It is hidden in our daily routines and often exposes itself in different emotions like dilemma, doubt, misconception, disgust, pain and regret, but it is this energy that drives us to push forward. It is a mechanism that forces us to choose sides and in so doing we keep up the process of renewal. New formats and points of view form along the way as we are being pushed into the future by the power of conflict.”
Where Plomp always succeeds and where a lot of Dutch design collectives should be paying attention is in exhibiting design. There is always just enough information, great graphic work and a presentation that reveals a lot about what to expect.
In “Conflict” to enter the space was difficult – conflicted – there were panes of wood at awkward angles blocking access. The flow was awkward, to create the desired effect.
Inside Adrien Petrucci and Olivia de Gouveia presented an intriguing project, “Pipeline” that gave a vey visual representation of scarcity of natural resources. Two bird-cage like lanterns connected by a copper pipe hung down at head height. In the first and slightly higher cage was a flask of oil, in the second a flask holding a wick that could be lit when the lever blocking the oil pipe is turned.
“We see objects as a balance of function and perceived aesthetics,” says Petrucci. “I like to emphasize the element of uncertainty in human behaviour and Olivia is fascinated by the tension between the visible and the tangible.”
The result is a play on a traditional oil lantern and brings to light a deceptive paradox between safety and danger, which forces the user to assess his consumptive behaviour. How long can the fire continue to burn?
“We are toying with where something functional becomes aesthetic,” Petrucci says. “That point where it enters the vocabulary of shapes. So rather than the safety of a glass cover, we used an open but familiar shape. It doesn’t look safe and reminds us to be careful.”
Careful, one might assume, of the bare flame, but just as careful of wasting the limited resources that allow the flame to burn in the first place.
Kirstie van Noort and Rogier Arents, both recent graduates of the DAE, presented “Colour Collision” – a series of ceramic pieces dyed naturally using the pigment of red cabbage. Running along side the presented pieces was a film that showed the pair’s process and the exact moment of colour collision.
The pigment in red cabbage changes dramatically when the PH balance in its environment alters. When applied to ceramics the colour change is both vivid and dramatic - pinks, greens and blues collide and react each time the PH changes – and it happens immediately.
“Using this technique can often result in really amateur results,” says Arents, “but I think we managed to avoid that.”
“It is hard because we are not deciding on the graphical design, it’s just what nature does,” says Van Noort who was the recipient of this year’s 5,000 euro Incentive Doen | Materiaalprijs.
Edhv used no pigment but metals - copper, iron, salt, base and acid - to create colour. Their process was to combine and capture reactions in different combinations. The result is a series of posters with beautiful colour gradients and patterns. “Each poster took three weeks to take full effect,” says Remco van de Craats. “The colours take that much time to set.”
It was a difficult process to put iron and copper powder through a silk screen, especially as Van de Craats ended up using the same process to design the tops of wooden stools. “It was a weird acrobatic way of working,” he says. “We were really exploring the oxidization process.”
The result is a wooden stool that actually rusts.
Jeroen Wand, who graduated from the Sandberg Institute in 2008, made a series of vases using a single mould. Then he explored the theme of conflict on the outside skin of each vase. These second resulted from the internal struggle between two different drying stages of the same material – set plaster and wet plaster, albeit in various stages of wetness.
“The vase shows the battle ground where the set plaster has engaged in a war with the liquid plaster over a scare item – water,” Wand explains. The process also changes the colour of the plaster naturally.
Wand calls his former teacher Miriam van der Lubbe as well as Bertjan Pot, who he interned with, his biggest design influences.
“Miriam always says exactly what she thinks,” he says. “Before the lesson I’d always be working out in my head ways to tell her, to explain things to her. She really focuses on getting out of you what your exact thinking is, she asks hard questions, which make students better at working out their own personal point.”
The stand out of Invertuals has for me always been Jetske Visser. This year she teamed up with Michiel Martens. There is not yet a lot to say about this work other than it is an early experiment with bones. The couple spent 1 euro a kilogram purchasing 35 kg of cow bones and hauled them back to the studio.
They simply presented narrow pieces that they had experimented with in terms of colour and shape. Already they had turned a strong and historically important material into something that revealed Visser’s familiar beauty.
The conflict in this pairs work was explained away as being how they themselves work and approach design. I thought that sounded a bit lame at first – just an excuse for having not really embraced the theme. But I was wrong.
Talking to Martens for a few hours after the opening made me really excited to see how his collaboration with Visser pans out.
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