Design Academy Eindhoven presents itself each year during Salone Del Mobile in Milan. In 2015 the new Food Non Food department which Marije is head of, was just launched. Together with all the students and teachers the whole department went to Milan and worked and lived in the exhibition. As curator of the exhibition Marije showed the heritage of food and design of the Design Academy dating back to the seventies.
Initially I was nervous to come to Milan with a topic like shit, but the more I thought, the more I realized it was absolutely necessary. Yes the title is explosive, but it is also entirely appropriate. The exhibition has been designed to present the breadth and attack of the Design Academy Eindhoven’s new Food Non Food department.
Shit from this vantage point is the connector – it links food to non food and sets the tone for the departmentwhich at least so far has little to do with cooking and everything to do with systems, rituals, and materials. We launched this department because food and all its myriad associations have always been a part of the academy’s DNA. Jason Page’s 2014 graduation project, which digitalized our archive making complete themes easily accessible, beautifully communicates this. His timeline of food related projects forms the centerpiece of the exhibition, which covers everything from eating and excreting to recycling and protesting. ‘Eat Shit’ is a definition of the human condition –you live, you eat, you shit so shit – as a result – is a valuable resource. It sits at the beginning and the end of the food chain. But to hurl the words ‘Eat Shit’ at an opponent is also an expression of anger, an insult flung in protest at inequality, unfairness and corruption.
The project ‘In Limbo Embassy’ by Manon van Hoeckel looks at society’s outcasts – asylum seekers who have no legal identity and who are not and cannot be represented by any embassy. These are legal nobodies with a lost sense of belonging. Their realities embraced as the tales of individual human beings rather than simple newspaper headlines are truly tragic. Even the title of the project communicates an enormous life problem.
But what struck me most when I first saw this project was how when a person’s posture is altered, theirnew stance challenges your usual perception of them. In the pictures, these asylum seekers look regal, almost powerful. Even the way the blanket – a typical symbol of homelessness and poverty – is folded shifts the meaning of the symbol. These people have lost all political power, but they are beautiful and strong with an air of genuine dignity.
Another recent DAE graduate is Pim van Baarsen whose project ‘Holy Crap’ rethinks the horrendous waste problems in Kathmandu, Nepal. There rubbish is dumped in landfill or in rivers and even burnt. ‘Holy Crap’ is a new business model that encourages citizens to separate their waste at home, be more engaged with where it ends up, and to benefit financially as an incentive. Also we present Olivier van Herpt’s ‘3D Ceramics Printer’ – a phenomenal project. In response to the limitations in 3D printing technology, Olivier spent two years designing a machine and a process that made printing medium and large-scale domestic objects from ceramics possible. The printer can be programmed to move in a particular pattern and the extruder can be programmed to stop and start. This means the clay can be controlled and do so much more than ‘excrete’ in one continuous line.
The other issue I wanted to address is the on-going debate as to whether schools like ours need to participate in events like the Salone del Mobile. For us exhibitions are vital. At the Design Academy Eindhoven we do not teach via disciplines. This means that one does not come to our school to study graphic design or product design. Rather, we attack the world in a different way – by dividing life up into domains or spheres of influence like activity, leisure and communication. Within these domains students can try and test their concepts in a very personal and often extreme way. But at some point these ideas need to come face to face with established practice – with the real world. Exhibitions fulfil this function. In them we see how very personal undertakings or the ‘self’ translate into a broader more far-reaching and relevant realm – the so-called ‘un-self’. Exhibitions fuse designer and public who together embark on the final step of the design process interpreting and realizing work in a more political, economic and social sense. In this way one can refer to the making of work as an interaction with the material world, while the presenting of it is an interaction with the social world where our designers can gauge reactions, engage an audience, and even survive a critical eye.
FOOD NON FOOD
Marije Vogelzang is the head of the new Design Academy Eindhoven Food Non Food department. She graduated from the academy in 2000 and her ‘White Funeral’ project was a hit in Milan the year before. Marije never wanted to become known as the ‘food girl’ but soon realised that food as a material has both endless possibilities and infinite power. I can’t think of anything that touches us like food. It is the soul of life, a single unifier. When I first graduated I did not want to become known as the food girl, but I was struck by the public’s reaction to my first projects. It made me think much more about the material’s potency and potential. Food is very emotional – it has the power to make people feel happy. I always knew that, but the more complicated question was how a food designer couldmake the sort of impact I wanted to make. My answer is that one must always have a stand-point that is bigger than the food on a plate. So I want ‘Eat Shit’ to show how there is a big difference between food design and eating design.
I want to reveal the full gamut of what my new Food Non Food course at the Design Academy Eindhovencovers. It is the first undergraduate food design course in the world in art education and for the department I selected a team of experts with different strengths so students come at the subject from as broad a perspective as possible.
The department’s focus is on materials, politics, communication and always ideas – ideas about change, the future and problem solving. Combined, my team has a unique view on where and why food is where it is right now, but also where it is headed. It is important to look backwards and forwards to better understand how design can intervene on that route. We talk about contemporary reality, limitations and all the various responses design can make to food related issues. Food Non Food decided to come to Milan now even though the students are only second years because the moment feels right. We are a brand new department and the students are still fi nding their way and their voice as designers, but the next World Expo is coming up and its focus is also food so it feels like the time to start showing what we have been up to is now. The students are amazing. They are fresh and so enthusiastic. I think one of the main problems facing food and food production right now is that most of the people in the industry are very specialized and focus solely on their own profession. Design cannot solve every problem, but I do think it can make a valuable contribution. And it is at each point of the production and distribution process that difference can be made because skilled creative thinkers are trained to tackle bigger problems head on.
Curator, exhibition, Program