Tools of Invention
Hendrickje Schimmel: Why did you choose to work with wood for this new series of works, as a material but also as a concept?
Janne & Moreno: Throughout the research for our projects we started to see that in the 3D printer world more and more different types of material filaments were appearing, amongst them a wood filament. That triggered us to think about what it is that defines ‘real wood’, considering all the different processing stages that wood undergoes to become a usable building material. By different stages we mean how the most untouched wood trunk is processed to become planks, beams, at some point a veneer, sandwich material (plywood), and eventually is being shredded into wood fibres that become another material like MDF. If for instance MDF, which is made out of wood fibre and a binder, is considered wood then would a wood 3D printing filament, which is also made of wood fibre combined with a binder, be considered real wood as well? As humans we have kept altering wood, depending on needs, circumstances and the available tools. We are fascinated by the development of digital material culture and how this connects to current cultural shifts/aesthetics.
HS: It is really interesting how you combine the most traditional techniques with the most contemporary ones, could you expand on this conceptual decision?
J&M: The tradition of woodworking opens up possibilities when applied to the digital realm, where construction is not limited to the physical properties of a material. We think that every stage of wood (natural trunk, plank, sawdust) has its own inherent qualities and so do the new 3D printing techniques. We tried to consider and apply all these stages and see how they can speak to each other functionally and aesthetically. For the Echo stools for instance, we hand chiselled the first part of the stool out of tree trunks that we foraged in the woods. By only making one half of the stool we created a need for another half. The other half was made by 3D scanning the first half, digitally mirroring it and then 3D printing it. The second half is in a way the digital echo of the first half and in a very literal sense opposes two different views upon woodworking.
HS: Do you distinguish between digital and analogue production methods?
J&M: Rather than trying to distinguish between these production methods we are fascinated about their similarities and how they can relate to each other. Both digital and physical production methods have a specific set of tools that are inherent to their respective techniques. We are interested in making an object that uses both production methods and embraces both qualities. Digitally produced objects are often perceived as characterless and inauthentic. We are critical of this notion as we see how much craft is involved in digitally made work. Maybe that is also a reason why we gravitated towards wood, being a natural and organic material. By mimicking the liveliness of this natural material with a very mechanic tool like 3D printing, the objects become more ambiguous and therefore provide the opportunity for both aspects to be considered. We see our way of working with wood as a continuation in the tradition of the woodworking craft; the invention of tools always excelled the development of a craft. In this sense we don’t see the digital and analogue production methods as opposites.
The exhibition A Tree Full of Splinters took place at Antwerp’s Everday Gallery in June 2020
In case you are wondering it’s not a coincidence, they are related. Dutch artist Hendrickje Schimmel (aka Tenant of Culture) is the sister of Janne.