Contemporary Dutch Design
12.06.2012 - 02.09.2012

Vitra Design Museum Gallery

The exhibition “Gerrit Rietveld – The Revolution of Space” presented by the Vitra Design Museum this summer shows the continuing relevance of Rietveld’s oeuvre. Against this background, a special exhibition in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery will open during Art Basel, which is dedicated to a number of innovative Dutch designers whose experimental methods are similar to Rietveld’s. Under the title “Confrontations”, objects and installations will be shown that were created especially for the exhibition by five teams from the Netherlands in collaboration with partners from the region around the museum. The exhibition participants include six of the most well-known innovative design studios in the Netherlands. While Catalogtree takes charge of staging the exhibition itself, the remaining five teams were matched with partners from the Basel and Freiburg area. All five partners provided the designers with material and know-how in the process of jointly developing an object or an installation.

Lucas Maassen and Roche

Lucas Maassen has worked with the sciences several times in the past. Just five micrometres tall, his Nano Chair was “built” in collaboration with a physicist using an ion milling technique. The chair is only visible through a special focused ion beam microscope. Thus, Maassen raises interesting questions, like what size does an object need so that we call it an object? When does a chair become a chair?
Based in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is one of the world’s leading research-oriented healthcare companies specialising in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. The “Discovery Chemistry” division at Roche consists of experts in the fields of medicinal chemistry and computer-assisted molecular design who work to develop new molecules as potential new medicines towards the improvement of patients’ lives.
For their common “Confrontations” project, Lucas Maassen and Roche crystallized DNA fragments. A magnified glass version of this crystal, which is, of course, only visible under the microscope, was then produced by the Vienna-based crystal manufactory Lobmeyr. One thousand such pieces will become a crystal chandelier.
Ultimately, this project is about the visualization of life. DNA is the basic code of life, an essential part of every organism. Every one of us contains DNA that could also be crystallized and turned into a chandelier – including the sister that Lucas Maassen never had because his parents’ relationship ended too soon. Thinking of her, he called the project “My Crystal Sister Valerie”, according to the name that his parents would have chosen for him, had he been a girl. The chandelier – and thus, their “crystal daughter” – will be assembled by Maassen’s parents in a performance on 12 June 2012.

Video: Lucas Maassen and Roche

2012Architecten and Vitra

2012Architecten, founded by Jeroen Bergsma, Jan Jongert and Césare Peeren, is an architectural studio in Rotterdam that creates its designs almost exclusively from waste materials. According to their philosophy of “Superuse”, they do not simply utilize recycled raw materials, but employ disused materials, components and objects found on site. For their Wikado playground in Rotterdam, for instance, 2012Architecten incorporated discarded rotor blades from wind turbines
Vitra is active worldwide in the manufacture and distribution of furniture for homes, offices and public spaces. The Swiss company has achieved renown as a producer of works by such design icons as Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and Verner Panton along with contemporary designers like Konstantin Grcic, the Bouroullec brothers and Jasper Morrison.
In keeping with their philosophy, 2012Architecten will not be designing a conventional furniture piece for Vitra. Instead it conducted a study to locate materials and components that do not meet Vitra’s strict quality criteria and, no longer to be used in the production process, would otherwise be sent off for recycling.
Until the day of their performance on 13 June, 2012Architecten are developing this “material harvest” into a seating-lounger-climbing object. At 6pm on the same day, they will cease their work so that the object can be given a fine finish on one side while the other side is left “frayed”.

Video: 2012Architecten and Vitra

Studio Formafantasma and the the Charburner Doris Wicki

The works by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin, founders of Studio Formafantasma, are permeated by a deep vein of tradition and nostalgia. The two Italians who studied in the Dutch city of Eindhoven and continue to live and work there frequently come back to the artisanal methods of their Southern European homeland. In their various reinterpretations, however, they exhibit an approach that is unmistakably Dutch: the statement of their objects is more important to them than their function.
Doris Wicki comes from a family that has been engaged in charcoal burning for generations. At an early age, she accompanied her father to his charcoal kilns in the woods of the Swiss Entlebuch region and learned the trade from the ground up. After a career as a hairdresser, she has dedicated herself to event charcoal burning since 2004. She is the only woman in Europe currently practising in this male-dominated profession. With each charcoal-burning session lasting several days at a time, she produces up to fifteen tonnes of charcoal per season.
For “Confrontations”, Formafantasma investigates the contradictions of charcoal. On one hand, charcoal burning was long responsible for the deforestation of large areas of Europe, as charcoal remained the only viable energy source for the extraction and processing of metals well into the nineteenth century. Although the widespread urban pollution of centuries past was primarily due to coal, a product that was discovered later, climate-neutral charcoal is still considered a dirty material. At the same time, charcoal provides health benefits and has been used since Ancient Egypt as a water and air filter as well as for medicinal purposes.
Working with a glass blower and a woodcarver, Studio Formafantasma developed a series of glass vessels fitted with wooden filters and other accessories. The wooden pieces were subjected to varying degrees of charring in collaboration with Doris Wicki. During the performance on 14 June, the team will build a charcoal kiln next to the Vitra Design Museum Gallery while serving charcoal-filtered water and offering bread baked from flour and pulverized charcoal to aid digestion.

Video: Studio Formafantasma and charburner Doris Wicki

Studio Wieki Somers and Confiserie Rafael Mutter

Wieki Somers runs her studio together with Dylan van den Berg. Their work focuses on the search for the hidden properties of objects, properties that evoke memories or stimulate the imagination of users. Since the founding of the studio in 2000, they have experimented with all manner of materials – in their “Consume or Conserve?” series, even with human ashes, which Somers and Van den Berg treated with a 3-D printing process.
The Freiburg-based Rafael Mutter consistently ranks among the best chocolatiers in Germany and across Europe. The praline brittle produced by Mutter is a cherished raw material for top European chocolate-makers and even the Royal House of Sweden procures the tantalizing creations by Mutter.
Wieki Somers began her collaboration with Rafael Mutter with numerous tests and experiments. Chocolate was subjected to 3-D printing, laser cutting, spraying and much more until the duo, inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s chocolate grinder, ultimately came up with the idea of scraping the top of a piece of chocolate like a wheel of “Tête de Moine” cheese. Together with the chocolatiers, they produced two large cylindrical blocks of chocolate from the top of which delicate rosettes are shaved off with a crank-turned blade. Various patterns are integrated into the blocks using different types of chocolate, creating a flipbook effect as the layers are scraped off.
During their performance, Studio Wieki Somers and the chocolatier will prepare chilled drinks for visitors using the chocolate rosettes.

Video: Studio Wiecki Somers and Confiserie Rafael Mutter

Dirk Vander Kooij and A. Raymond

The works by the designer Dirk Vander Kooij consistently revolve around the buzzword of rapid prototyping. His Endless Chair, for instance, was created layer-by layer from a single string of melted plastic. The repurposed robot that Vander Kooij deployed for the task functions according to the same principle as a 3-D printer. For the raw material, the designer uses shredded parts of old refrigerators.
For “Confrontations”, Vander Kooij works with the company A. Raymond in Lörrach. In 1886, the company founder Albert-Pierre Raymond invented the press-stud, a decisive improvement over the plain buttons the company had produced up to that point for the glove and footwear industry. Now 126 years later as a multinational corporation, the company remains an expert when it comes to fasteners – although no longer in the field of fashion. Today A. Raymond is the world’s second-largest manufacturer of fastening elements for the automotive industry.
In his new project for “Confrontations”, Dirk Vander Kooij again takes up 3-D printing techniques. His new project was inspired by the fact the digital visualizations supplied to computers for the printing process are based on tiny triangles – comparable to the quadratic pixels that make up digital images. Vander Kooij enlarged and reconstructed such triangles in metal. In collaboration with A. Raymond, he developed a simple mechanism along the edges that makes it easy to connect the parts to one another. During his performance, Vander Kooij will invite visitors to the gallery to reconstruct various furniture designs using the metal triangles.

Video: Dirk Vander Kooij and A. Raymond

Catalogtree and the Vitra Design Museum Gallery

Design is more than its individual parts, according to Joris Malta and Daniel Gross, the founders of the graphic design studio Catalogtree. What they mean by this is perhaps best illustrated with their visualizations of data, as hundreds of facts and figures become suddenly transformed into an easy-to-understand visual.
For the five individual parts of “Confrontations” – the objects and installations of the other design teams and their partners – Catalogtree has created a logo derived from the movements of a double pendulum. A double pendulum is a pendulum onto which a second pendulum is attached that follows an unpredictable pattern of motion. With this motif, Catalogtree wishes to underscore the experimental character of “Confrontations”, for the very essence of an experiment is its uncertain outcome. Along these lines, a watch operating on the basis of a double pendulum will always be a little fast or slow.
Such a watch and the works of the five design teams are presented by Catalogtree in an ambience inspired by the location of the Vitra Design Museum Gallery: the production halls of the furniture manufacturer Vitra. For nearly three months, industry and experiment will be coming together in a spirit of fascination and suspense.

Confrontations TV

The performances from 12 to 16 June are a key part of the exhibition. In recognition of their significance, a specially created Confrontations TV studio will produce five-minute reports on the actions of the previous day. These reports will be available online and as well as in the Vitra Design Museum Gallery until the exhibition closes on 2 September 2012. Confrontations TV is a cooperation with Premsela – The Netherlands Institute for Design and Fashion.

The exhibitions and events on Dutch design were developed with the support
and cooperation of: