Manifestations

The festival that is Manifestations worked with the theme Super Powers this year and explored all the topics that make people both excited and terrified about the future—robots, e-fashion, wearables, AI, human mutations and post-apocalyptic design. Technology is an undeniable part of our everyday lives, and it comes in many forms. Some of them helpful, some of them invasive and more often than not, it’s somewhere in between. Algorithms learning about our interests can help simplify navigate an information overflow but can also have us living in an ideological echo-chamber or implants giving us new possibilities but allowing the possibility of being tracked. Technology can also give humans superpowers, when they’re feeling their most vulnerable. We know that anonymity can allow for a more expressive self, but in the example of Face To Face by Ningli Zhu, it also encourages self-reflection. The work was born of her social anxieties and explores how virtual interactions, especially applications of facial responsiveness provide a sense of compensation and fictional self-perception. Her self-reflective narrative video questions the humanness in our relationship to machines and how they influence our relationships with each other.

Still from Face To Face interactive video essay, Image courtesy of Zhu Ningli


Alissa + Nienke

Fringes&Floats is a collection of innovative, woven textiles for large-scale interior applications like wallcoverings, room dividers or acoustic wall-hangings. Fringes & Floats is a collection of innovative, woven textiles for (large scale) interior applications, like wallcoverings, room dividers and acoustic wall hangings. A+N, founded by Alissa van Asseldonk and Nienke Bongers, is a material research studio that puts the user experience first and works in close collaboration with experts—craftsmen and high tech industry leaders—to create innovative materials with an aesthetic finesse and a keen understanding of colour harmony. For DDW2019 they teamed up with 3D weaving experts EE Exclusives to create a range of surfaces that demonstrates the broad possibilities of 3D weaving technology. They’ve played with fringes, floats and layering to trigger our senses. Seeing presentations of samples spark the imagination, allowing the viewer to play with the scale and possible implementations in their heads. The duo presented The Sun Show blinds, which are woven textiles that open and close mechanically, triggered by a light sensor, which was testament to their ability to work in 3D and the kind of wonders we can expect when talented designers collaborate with experts in other fields.

Fringes&Floats detail view, image courtesy of Alissa+Nienke


Striptopia

This pop-up strip club by Maggie Laylon Saunders had visitors waiting in a snaking line through the Design Academy Eindhoven exhibition at the Campina Factory this year. The project aims to provide an alternative to traditional strip clubs, with the goal of empowering strippers to have full political, financial and bodily autonomy. It’s a pop-up, mobile strip club and it incorporates wearables and a mobile app as tools to create a transparent financial system. Saunders underlines that strip clubs have the capacity to meet the needs of contemporary society but they often struggle with accessibility, inclusivity in terms of race and gender and promote imbalanced power structures “such as unfair monetary exchange and hierarchical architecture spaces.” It seems to be a simple and clever grass-roots kind of strip club where the strippers make their own rules and set their own boundaries to create a space that encourages sexual expression and exploration that is empowering, inclusive and safe.

Striptopia installation view, image courtesy of Maggie Laylon Saunders


[IN]visible Membrane by Sonja Bäumel 

Ordinarily the idea of visualising bacteria makes us uncomfortable but in [IN]visible Membrane by Sojna Bäumel aims to visualise the fact that humans are a hybrid, a super organism which is only able to exist is the different forms of life on the body cooperate. Bäumel is fascinated by human skin, this organ that is a layer teeming with life, with  and exploring its potential. She zooms in and out between the micro world, the inside of the body and the outer world that is seemingly seperarates us from. She aims to make it visible to confront people with the fact that our body is a large host to bacteria and that a balanced perception of the body is linked with a balanced perception of the self. In her exploration of this visualisation, she has created crocheted membranes, a bacteria texture, an (in)visible film and an oversized petri dish.

Bacteria Texture, part of [IN]visible Membrane research, image courtesy of Sonja Bäumel


Still Life by Vera Van Der Burgh

Machine learning is naturally a hot topic among the work, and Still Life by Vera Van Der Burgh explores the ways in which algorithms become increasingly subjective. To demonstrate this, she has programmed an object recognition algorithm that was trained on a series of data sets of her own emotions. She then has the algorithm scan a still-life image filled with a wide array of objects and has it interpret their emotional content. She finds humour in the nonsensical aspect of the result, teasing us humans for aiming to constantly find meaning in everything. There a number of real-world examples in which large data sets have been fed into an algorithm, and it was revealed to, despite its breadth, be bias. The project aims to question how something as subjective and fickle as emotions could be reconciled with the mathematical and objective nature of machine learning algorithms and what it reveals about us and our conscious or unconscious biases, and what ramifications this has for technologies that could, in the future, rely on this data.

Still Life, image courtesy of Vera Van Der Burg


Digital Sprayers by Jonathan Levain

Concerned by how in major democracies during the recent past, voter participation has been decreasing among the 18-25 year old demographic, Design Academy graduate Jonathan Levain has created Digital Sprayers. The mobile app that turns your phone, something that this demographic is arguably addicted to, into a virtual spray can, aiming to encourage young (non)voters to express their thoughts and promote the freedom of expression. The aim is to stimulate young people to create a responsive community in which self-expression, and ideally, democratic participation, are encouraged in an augmented reality.



Dutch Invertuals

To celebrate their round tenth birthday Dutch Invertuals turned to the mother of all forms for this year’s exhibition : the circle. A symbol of unity, perfection, and infinity. Over the last decade, under the guidance of founder and art director Wendy Plomp, the collective has consistently shown relevant work from pioneering designers who undeniably represent some of what’s most exciting about contemporary Dutch Design and tackled themes that have explored a wide range in topics, from macro to micro, from mass production and energy consumption to psychology and identity, reminding us that design can address almost any part of our lives. The collective exhibition was a varied display of intriguing work, we wanted to give a special mention to Willem Van Hooff whose collection Core featured large, flat,  ceramic vessels are designed to keep their balance by the liquid the hold inside. Inspired by the earliest application of the circle, a vessel, derived from the shape made when we cup our hands together, Van Hooff argues that the circle in an inherently imperfect form.

The Circle installation view, photo by Ronald Smits Core by Willem Van Hooff at The Circle, photo by Ronald Smits


Craft Council

Craft is often associated with tradition. The idea of tradition could, by some, be seen as an antithesis of innovation. We don’t feel this way, and we are glad that the Craft Council doesn’t either. Craft is a transference of knowledge, heritage and identity. There are various designers who devote their studios to researching and deepening the available knowledge of craft, as well as continuously searching for how techniques can be rejuvenated or adapted. Our world requires us to rethink the materiality of our production, and the life-cycle of the things we create. In the exhibition How&Wow the Crafts Council Nederland shows an exciting a clear merging of traditional methods and modern application. Modernisation can be found even in the adaptation of a process, a material or design. The use of local materials, the relationship between analog and digital techniques and an international exchange in knowledge shows us why preserving craft can absolutely be part of innovation.

How&Wow exhibition view, photo by Max Kneefel


Please Take Off Your Shoes by Sander Wassink

Sander Wassink, whose installation Please Take Off Your Shoes was presented at his spacious studio, discovered drawing as a liberating force. After experiencing some difficulties during projects, he turned to drawing to give him the freedom that would satisfy him, and would also take off any pressure that he was feeling, bogged down by the practicalities of a design project. The work he showed consisted of some existing and new work brought to life by this newfound liberation. He has also started implementing this methodology in his interior design projects. A cornerstone of the exhibition was a large carpet created from the leftover pieces sourced from Dutch company Desso Tarkett. He wanted the carpet to slow people down and take a moment to have a conversation or just be willing to embark on a new experience. This choice coincides with Wassink’s way of working with found materials, waste or leftover products, and by combining these, creating something new.

Please Take Off Your Shoes installation view, image courtesy of Sander Wassink