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Lecture - Talinn, ‘Design Days’ 2014. Theme: ‘What is wrong in Design’.
Foto 1 cheese
evening everybody! I was asked to share some of my ideas with you
about what can be done better in design these days. As I am a bit of
an odd duck in the field, my approach and remarks may be of some help
to some of you, as different approaches can sometimes allow us to
widen perspectives and possibilities.
I restarted my life as a designer only a couple of years ago, and in that time I bought a piece of cheese .... in a shop .... close to my house. The taste was rich and deep. In the shop they told me the cheese came from a female farmer and that farmer also had written a book about the love she felt for her animals. I think it was this love that made the difference between that special cheese and the ordinary one. The difference in quality was made by love so I wondered whether difference in quality in Design also could be considered as a matter of more or less love towards the matter you are working with. I consider this cheese as an excellent piece of design.
I'll come back to this subject later because it is connected with what I will call Foto 1b tekst the dabbeljoeaidees, which means the different wrong-in-design points.
Foto 2 text with questions.
I restarted my life as a designer and the months before I tried to
formulate some answers on the following questions:
. What kind of objects does it make sense to draw?
. What kind of content makes sense nowadays?
. How do I want to grow, and how to align my work and myself in a respectful symbiosis?
. What consequences are there for the formal outlook and the distribution of my work?
. What traps should be avoided?
I had to do that because the market is not considering content. But for a sincere designer these questions are part of the most important questions to be answered.
Foto 3 a lady, a bicycle and the desert ....
answers to these questions rely on what should NOT be the case, the
What did I not want to become and what kind of acts did I NOT want to
undertake, as a creative human being?
I did not want to have a burnout. I wanted to avoid painful competition with colleagues. I did not want to be a runninghorse in the race for a good network.
I did not want to write documents for days and days..
I did not want to make products with the only aim to please the emotional taste of the consumer ... and to sell a lot of them.
I did not want to ask the industry to employ me, an occasional contact being more than enough.
I did not want to control somebody to see if I can trust him to do a good job.
I did not want to work for free. I don’t need to make a lot of profit, but I do not agree to be underpaid for a job well done.
I did not want to change style every couple of years and certainly I did not want to have to start stealing ideas from colleagues because I’d suddenly become so stressed out that I would no longer be able to continue to connect to my own personal source of creativity.
I consider all these things as WiD1 because I think a good creative life must be like taking a deep breath: Foto John Constable
- You breath in … and that is similar to taking all inputs in your body – then there is a stop - which leads to the awareness of the breath ... and then you breath out, and breathing out symbolises the creation of the object and finally - there is a stop again, before you start a new breath and in this stop you reflect on the creation you just accomplished.
Breathing gives birth to life. A good life allows people to blossom like flowers or trees and I think that it is a fundamental right of each being to become the flower he or she is by nature.
The conclusion is that everything that obstructs a creative person to become as creative as he is by nature is wrong, is a WiD. The question then becomes: how to avoid WiD's?
I thought the following premises could give the answers.
• the work has to have a meaningful societal impact. + we are all one
• I have to be able to work alone and to have a lot of time to develop my abilities in the depth. + the wanderer
• I want to work with one-offs and limited editions and this oeuvre could be the start of a collaboration with industry + ouroboros
• I want the work to be absolutely consistent in its underlaying ideas and avantgarde in its appearance + still life
• I only want to work with one material: wood, the only way to know a material from within. + cuting boards
• I desire to have a unique profile, independent from the latest fashion and entirely suitable for modern interiors + woodpebbles
• Finally I want to make object by object, each time trying to make a better one, just the way sculptors work.
us now take a closer look at some of the items of the list. The first
thing to avoid a WiD is
to be sure that, as I said:
1. The work has a meaningful societal impact. I’ll give you a historical example: foto 5 le corbusier
By the time that world war one had ended, Le Corbusier was a young architect, and he rethought the way objects should be executed. Did his work have a meaningful societal impact? It certainly had. And not his work alone. All through history and cultures we see that objects incorporate a vision about the social structure, whether it is the structure they belong to or whether it is the structure they want to see established in the future.
That is why objects, together with other artistic artefacts, are considered to be dangerous by certain governments: because they have an influence on people’s minds.
The case of Le Corbusier is well-known: after the war there were almost no people left who could afford expensive decorative houses and because there was an optimistic belief that the development of industry and technology would save mankind from slavery, Le Corbusier decided to let furniture come alive following the logic of the machines. Before, machines were used to imitate handcrafted furniture. The cheap architecture that resulted from his view on design also contained a democratic purpose, namely that everybody has to be able to live in a qualitative and beautifully home.
The conclusion of this example is that in this perspective, the cultural commitment of the designer has a social impact, which then translates itself into political transformation and new structures of society.
6 What about design today? Does it also
incorporate a thoughtful, constructive vision on social structure? I
have to observe that the main rule in contemporary design is
obedience to the rule of success.
And this rule is simultaneously shaped and
by politics and
by economy and
by designers. A lot of designers think that the
only way to behave is to create objects to-please-to ... and that is
it. The result? A world with an overwhelming number of products …
pointless, made without any other objective than to be economically
efficient, which is one possible objective but if it is the only one
that counts then there is a problem … and that is why Philip
Design is dead, there is NO design anymore.
7 le corbusier The example of Le
Corbusier shows us that if the cultural components in society are
given the freedom to develop their own, often visionary meanings,
then there is a chance that it is incorporated on the economical
level and on the political level. Therefore to get a stable and
constructive social structure in society, the three levels, cultural,
economical and political should be considered as equal, whereas
political systems that have only one aim: to subordinate the cultural
level to economical ‘efficiency’ are working with only
short-term visions. Foto E. Mortier
These issues have been described in depth by
visionary people and important artists.
The economical level kills itself if the designer cannot breath and refresh his creativity. foto 7’ chapelle Le Corbusier These targets, in our current society, don’t benefit anyone in the long run. I consider submission to the economical part of the social structure as a first and only goal a WiD2 .
Foto Oct. Paz Octavio Paz said that an artistic creation needs a moral emotion: a personal commitment: the loyalty of the maker towards what he wants to express. A real artist is loyal to his ideas, and he considers his ideas as being more important than his position in the global market and its benefits.
9 The neoliberal system is facing its
own limits. The current design practice answers mostly one question:
how-to-please, and how to influence consumers to buy the
What possible answer could be given to this negative spiral? There are several answers possible and I chose one that suits me well. I added an H.
10 the phrase 'Design is dead. It is
time for NoH-design'.
I mean, for me, personally, it is time to reintroduce meaning and
vision about what kind of social structure will be necessary in the
future. I try to express it in a metaphorical way, the way the
Japanese Noh-theatre did. And I underwrite the statement of Tadao
Ando when he says: 'I want to restore what has been rejected by
So, what kind of social structure do I want to express through my plastic work? foto it is an optical illusion and a - coat rack’ What social order can be obtained, influenced by the metaphorical content and forms of design objects?
foto coat rack 5 elements
You find it summarised in the visionary hymn that became the European anthem. A hymn coming from Foto Beethoven Ludwig Von Beethoven’s 9th symphony, the anthem named 'Alle Menschen werden Brüder'.
foto 11 composfoto... At first sight you could call my work green. But I do not think that today a return to basic materials is enough to safe the world: not anymore. So, that is not what I mean and what I believe. I often use the sculptural and handcrafted to express through a specific plastic language a metaphorical message that can be incorporated in each kind of design, not in the least in high-technological design. Today, fishermen are leaving us with empty seas. They are being replaced with engineers who cultivate seaweed instead of fish. But these seaweed cultivating engineers, they too have to respect the laws of the unity and interdependence of all things, and this in order to make a blossoming world and earth possible in the future: there is no escape other than to obey these laws and to make our products and social structure the way that female farmer did: she incorporated love to achieve an incredible taste in an ordinary cheese. Foto 12 'après-moi, le déluge' In the future there will have to be a social structure dominated by love and respect and there is no way to get rid of this long-term need. Does my kind of work still have a function? foto 12b après moi - le déluge Yes it does, it is as useful as any other piece of design. But I consider the uselessness of the ideas behind it as more useful than its practical use. The useless part influences the mind. foto 12cThe fact that there is, next to the useless part, also a part incorporated into the object that invites the consumer to use it in a certain way also influences the mind. To not give enough attention to the 'power of the uselessness’ of an object is a WiD3.
2-( I want to work alone and to explore my talents as far as possible). if you work alone you can explore the matter and the ideas in the depth +foto chainsaw sawing
3- (I want to make one-off's and limited editions and the specificity of the products opens the door for the industry to explore new possibilities,) The departure from crafts and sculpture gives new derivative looks for the industry and makes the vision behind tangible for more people. + woodpebbles foto 14
-4. (Consistent in its ideas and avantgarde in its plastic expressions.) + foto 17 Nakashima / Noll - 2 of my peers.
When I had my first solo exhibition the gallery owner showed said I had some affinities with the designer Alexandre Noll and later I found another designer, George Nakashima. Both lived normal, passionated lives, humble, no wealth and no poverty, with enough time to develop skills and cultivate passion and with other beliefs than the belief in what is, at a given time, fashionable. Now they both have very expensive work in auctions. They are dead already so they cannot benefit from the results, but surely, the love and care and respect they put into their work must be one of the reasons of their success.
Where designers embrace the cult of being film stars, they often show a lack of authenticity, and deceit is common and that is WiD8.
5- (I focus on mainly one material: plain wood ) + foto plain wood atelier foto 15 . The more a musician knows his instrument the better he can master the music. This also goes for the designer and his raw material. Using more materials often leads to superficiality WID5
7- foto van compositie still life foto 16 Time is a good master and gives you all the knowledge you need. Don't work fast, work a lot but not fast. WiD 6
8, (I wanted to create a unique profile that nevertheless could be integrated in the middle of other objects in modern interiors.) Foto still life x
9, One of the disasters for designers is that they have to change style every couple of years. This is called ‘flexibility’. WiD 9. You need products which stand beyond time and which allow you to go on for decades in your evolution.
+ foto 18 presentationboard for cheese Sometimes ambitious designers think that they are good designers if they develop and make products that look like industrial products Wid 10 . But why should 'industrial look' be the standard? I think you have a better chance if you emphasise the non-industrial look. It will make you more visible.
I copied for you a text from Ettore Scottsas. He wrote, and I quote: “when I was a very small, little boy of five or six years old, I did drawings with houses, with vases and flowers, gypsi-caravans, merry-go-rounds () and then when I was a bit older, I built beautiful, sharp pointed sailing-boats, carved with a penknife out of the tender bark of pine-trees. (…) It has always seemed to me the most natural thing in the world to draw and make things.
I didn't feel and we didn't feel like designers, or artists, or engineers (…), we did not look for consumers, (…) nor did we look for agreement or disagreement or anything that wasn't all inside ourselves.
Now I'm old, they let me design electronic machines and other machines in iron (…), now they let me design furniture that ought to be sold, furniture they say, that is useful to society, they say, and other things that are sold 'at low prices’, and in this way they can sell more of them, they say, for society, they say, and now I design things of this kind. (…) By now, I have to think of things from an artificial space, with neither place nor time. A space only of words, phone-calls, meetings, timetables, politics, waiting, failures. By now I'm a professional acrobat, actor and tightrope walker, for an audience that I invent (…)
I would like to break this strange mechanism I've been driven too (…) I would like to think that the old happy state that I once knew could somehow be brought back the happy state in which (…) life was art, I mean creativity, I mean it was the awareness of belonging to the planet and to the pulsing history of the people that are with us. (…) Can it be tried? My friends say it can.” (…)”, end of the quote.
foto cheese 19
A cheese made by a company that uses very modern techniques: the animals’ dung is used to warm the stables, the food is produced on the farm, the electricity is produced by the company itself, and the water is purified with modern techniques . So, as you can see, if work is done in a crafts way or in a high technological way ... love and respect are the main conditions to make healthy and qualitative products, whether it is a piece of furniture or whether it is cheese. And finally you get happy designers as well.
And now we’re coming to the end of this talk. To make it more complete I’ll explain shortly one piece out of my oeuvre ... Maybe this will illustrate in a clearer way what I’m trying to say.
20 woodpebbles 1
This dinnerset is one of my favourites because it answers several questions, such as: ‘How does a modern wooden dish has to look like?’. Or: ‘How can I make a dish with a very low eco-footprint?’ or ‘How can I make a dish which expresses the need for a respectful social structure?’.
The result is this dinnerset:
1. It is a cartoon-alike archetype of a dish. It suggests a circle and moves, in a dynamic way.
The surface shows the soul of the material in a historical Japanese way. They just let the matter BE.
2. I used on purpose elements as solid, natural chopped wood, light and shadow, distortion and cracks as signatures of the living matter.
21 woodpebbles 2
foto 21 b it is perfectly possible to make beauty ... with almost nothing ... in a continuation of the ethical/esthetical dialogue with past, present and future.
So, that was my story about the interrelations between cheese and design: ‘love’, an energetical tangible love that must be resurrected in the worldwide social structure of the future, a core to avoid the most important WiD’s in design,
foto22 me, as a child and my poney
I would like to sincerely thank you for your kind attention. Thank you.