Eindhoven’s Van Abbemuseum is hosting an exhibition that brings together experimental objects and installations from designers including Jólan van der Wiel, Studio Drift and MVRDV.
Overseen by Design Academy Eindhoven creative director Thomas Widdershoven, the Thing Nothing exhibition features both real and unreal objects, brought together to explore “the value of the physical object in a de-materialising world.”
“Thing Nothing is a research into the meaning, value and future of things,” Widdershoven said. “Thing Nothing addresses the relation between form and counter-form, between the real and the virtual, between technological possibilities and moral issues.”
Accordingly the exhibition brings together an eclectic range of pieces, from magnetically formed stools designed by Jólan van der Wiel, to 3D-printed clay pots by Olivier van Herpt and purposefully absurd digital products created by Bastiaan de Nennie.
The show is divided into ten themed sections: Considering Value, Most Precious Things, Progress, Perfection of Form, At the Edge of the Physical, Future, Anonymous, Signature, Post-Human and Thingstead.
Unusual materials feature throughout, with Studio Drift contributing a dark oval mirror formed from artificial obsidian reclaimed from raw chemical waste.
Emilie Pallard and Niels Heymans are showing fantasy digital fur, and Eindhoven graduate Hongje Yang designed a miniature vase, created from grafts of human tissue grown in-vitro on a three dimensional scaffold.
HRL Laboratories’ metallic microlattice – light enough to balance on a dandelion clock – is also on display, alongside a stack of architectural firm MVRDV’s Disappearing Act glass bricks.
The Anonymous room features work from artists Mediengruppe Bitnik, who experimented with using an automated bot to make random purchases on the Darknet, and Metahaven, who designed a speculative floating data centre for international waters.
The subject of nationality is also a recurring one. Eindhoven graduate Giuditta Vendrame contributed a 50-litre-tank of water collected in sovereignty-free high seas, while a film by James Bridle takes viewers on a digital tour of immigration detention centres in the UK.
Thing Nothing is the conclusion of a trilogy of partner exhibitions between Design Academy Eindhoven and the Van Abbemuseum that began in 2013.
“The academy has always encouraged this type of cerebral approach to the design discipline,” Widdershoven said. “We urge students to look beyond the material properties of things, to search for a presence in the space in and around an object.”
“Given the explosion of technology and the evolving prominence of virtual space, how to create this tension between the thing and nothing is changing,” he added.
“Today designers need to be able to take their skills and translate them into the real of the unseeen, the unspoken and the unmade.”
Widdershoven commented on the school’s “paradigm shift” in the exhibition’s opening speech, explaining how students are showing greater interest in responding to real-world problems than just making beautiful objects for collectors.
Photography is by Peter Cox.