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‘Thing Nothing’ at Van Abbemuseum

by Geert Lebens, 8 November 2015

Thing Nothing
By: Van Abbemuseum and Design Academy Eindhoven,
At: Van Abbemuseum, October 17 – November 15, 2015

Thing Nothing is the third in a row of exhibitions taking place during Dutch Design Weeks in Eindhoven. The exhibition contains work of Design Academy graduates and other young designers combined with work of well known artists. The curatorial team has collected a selection of work that represent contemporary political and societal issues. The 2015 Thing Nothing exhibition again shows an interesting and uncompromised way of how designers and artists react on contemporary issues and shows in many ways the important connection between art and design and how both worlds blend. Besides the connecting themes of the work, the exhibiton itself forms a firm representation of a new contemporary field where a lot of young designers feel connected to. A strong sense of conceptual thinking can be extracted from the work along with abstract or associative use of form. Design fiction and speculative design play an important roll in creating contiousness with the audience about actual themes the artists are concerned with. The innovation appears in the way the artists communicate with or persuade the audience through the physical language of objects. They seem to be well aware of what appeals to the contemporary audience. The language of design relates to the use of shapes that remind of things from the collective memory and therefore stimulate the imagination needed to connect to the subject of the work. The works appeal very well to a modern audience doctrinated by image culture, an audience with a relatively short span of attention. The works draw the audience in, giving them the time to explore the philosophical discussion they’re made for to trigger.

A good example is the triptych of Auger-Loizeau’s ‘Afterlife’ (2009), Simon Warne’s ‘Afterlife Torch’ (part of Afterlife Phase II, 2009), and Dunne & Raby’s ‘After Life Euthanasia Machine’ (part of Afterlife Phase II, 2009). The work is already well known but clearly represents a new way of dealing with subject and object which is representative for contemporary artists and designers, who are sharing this new operating field. The work proposes a new way of mourning. It askes questions about traditional ways of how to remember our loved ones. Society keeps changing but the way we remember our loved ones after death is almost ancient. In modern society religion is still decisive for the way we mourn. But for a growing part of society religion makes way for personal preferences of mourning. We find ourselves in a time where the roll of science puts religion on the background, growing an interest in new ways to remember our lost loved ones. The work of Auger-Loizeau shows a fictive method of gaining energy out of deceased organic matter of a human body after biological death. The energy could be stored in a battery. The battery enables the loved ones left behind to use energy in memorial of the dead as a symbol of physical presence. In case of Simon Warne’s ‘Afterlife Torch’ the spirit will appear in the presence of a bundle of light. In Dunne & Raby’s ‘After Life Euthanasia Machine the energy from the battery can be used to operate a machine that peacefully takes your life, for life partners who are emotionally not capable of living further and want to be reunited with their loved ones. The work at least suggests an assisted suicide, the meaning and value of the work is further more discutabele and enables an important debate about a controversial subject.


 

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Auger-Loizeau, ‘Afterlife’, 2009

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Simon Warne, ‘Afterlife Torch’, part of Afterlife Phase II, 2009

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Anthony Dunne & Fiona Raby, ‘After Life Euthanasia Machine’, part of Afterlife Phase II, 2009


An other interesting work is ‘The Reality Theatre: Shopping in the Ludic Century’ (2015), by Allison Crank. Allison Crank graduated in 2015 from Design Academy Eindhoven with a project in which she investigates the human act of shopping. More and more stores are opening webshops because of consumers who are becoming increasingly more active on the Internet. A lot of people like to order products on the Internet, but what does that mean for the shopping experience. Is shopping for instance only about buying products? What is it that makes the whole experience of shopping so enjoyable? And.. What does the virtual world has to offer in creating a new shopping experience, one that appeals to the online consumer? In her VR shopping mall, which can be entered via an Oculus Rift, everything is about consuming experiences. The virtual environment is not only a place for product consumption, but interacts with the visitor, creating a playground and stage, transforming consumers into spectators. This new realm benefits from the qualities virtual reality has to offer and therefore creates a new world, lead by the new shopping experience.


 

https://vimeo.com/142750175
Allison Crank, ‘The Reality Theatre: Shopping in the Ludic Century’, 2015


Because reality is always subjective, reality is defined by personal notion, VR can benefit from this. Allison Crank plays with this properties of virtual reality. The power of the imagination could be the key to accepting VR as a reality. It shows the human abilities of empathy for instance. The strong power of the human mind to imagine how a fictitious person, creature or object might feel could mean a tremendous breakthrough for VR experiences. The virtual realm therefore creates a blank canvas for marketing rules and strategies, allowing designers and artists to fill the blanks.

A good example that shows how reality is a product of personal interpretation is ‘The Third Dimension’ (2012) by Yuri Veerman. He presents a black square on the clean white walls of the exhibition space. When looking closer the square appears to be made of silk, pinned to the wall with small nails. When you decode the silk scarf it reminds of a black headscarf used by Islamic women to cover their face. But nowhere these scarfs are worn are the motives the same. Every woman has different motives for wearing them, while not even all the motives are chosen by themselves. The symbol the headscarf became however, is often perceived as a one dimensional phenomenon. Yuri Veerman therefore chose for deconstructing the symbol in order to bring it back to it’s one dimensional state. He attempts to create understanding for the complex meanings of objects, by showing it’s sensitivety for interpretation. Something that differs by ethnicity, believes and personalities.


 

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Yuri Veerman, ‘The Third Dimension’, 2012


Another interesting example is ‘Amnesia State‘ (2015) by DAE graduate Yaolan Luo which is about hacking control over the collective memory by governments. Her work is a philosophic search for getting around sensorship of the surveillance state. An important part of that is the roll of the creatives, who claim the freedom to experiment with information technology. She askes what we can do with lost information? What if we could retrieve sensored information from the mind? Like Luo shows with her Mindbank. It concerns both the individual as the government in an information environment. Amnesia State is a design fiction that strives for finding a way to evade survailence and ‘inject information’ into a controlled society to save it from a temporary collective and personal memory loss.


 

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Yaolan Luo, ‘Amnesia State’, 2015

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Yaolan Luo, ‘Amnesia State’, 2015

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Yaolan Luo, ‘Amnesia State’, 2015


See and read more of ‘Thing Nothing’ in the digital ISSUU catalogue below: