DUTCH DESIGN WEEK
Studio Kolk & Kusters art directors Klokgebouw DDW 2014
Oct. 18 through Oct. 26, 2014
Maarten Kolk and Guus Kusters have been invited to act as art directors for the 13th edition of Dutch Design Week (DDW) . The organisers have asked this design duo to take on the responsibility for the concept and layout of the exhibition area in the Klokgebouw. The appointment of Kolk and Kusters continues the policy of entrusting the art directorship to an external party.
For many visitors, the Klokgebouw is the starting point for their visit to Dutch Design Week (DDW), and traditionally one of the key venues. For the first time in 2013, the organisation left the design and layout to an external art director. Kolk and Kusters combine autonomous product design with exhibition design. So are they ideal art directors? They unfold their plans and try to temper the high expectations: ‘You can’t please everyone.’
Daunting, the Klokgebouw? Nervous?
MK: ‘We thought it was kind of daunting at the start, yes. There are so many opinions about the venue: too big a crowd, too commercial, too much like a trade fair. Yes, I suppose it is kind of scary. Everyone will have an opinion. You can’t please everyone.’
GK: ‘We’re largely dependent on the registrations. The registration period runs from April to June, so we could only start our actual interpretation in the summer. The same applied for Organisation in Design last year. Fortunately, we now benefit from their knowledge and experience and can build on it. We’re hard at work.’
To what extent is your interpretation going to differ from Organisation in Design’s last year?
MK: ‘First of all: it’s very difficult to change the interpretation for such an enormous venue as the Klokgebouw. You can’t manage to do something like that in a year. Organisation in Design made a very good start. The Klokgebouw was immediately more intimate and less trade-fair-like. But the adjoining hall still consisted of trade fair isles. And there was a great contrast between the various spaces. We continue to build on what was good, but we do want to create more uniformity. Adhering slightly less to the previous years’ approach: one hall with talent, one hall with institutes, one hall with companies. We’re going for much more of a mix and match.’
GK: ‘We’re aiming for a square-like atmosphere. There will only be rear walls between the larger stands, but not much more than that. We’re actually trying to prevent dividers, to achieve that square-like feel. Less distinction between small presentations of young talent and the companies that are going for something bigger. More of a theme-based set-up, so that different participants reinforce each other’s work.’
MK: ‘Look, the creative industry comprises various layers or levels. Within them, small independent designers, commercial labels, institutes and training courses, museums and all sorts of stakeholders operate. We want to bring these together. Put them side by side. An experimental textile designer next to an industrial fabric manufacturer and a fashion course: then things become really interesting for the public. In the blink of an eye, you see that methods and ideas vary remarkably even within the same theme or with reference to the same material.’
How difficult is it to determine these themes? What do you focus on, and what not?
GK: ‘We started by filtering the applications for the Klokgebouw on the basis of quality. And this selection is actually what we can work with. But we also actively went in search of parties who could add something new, something different. Interesting themes that dovetailed with the participants we had already chosen.’
MK: ‘A group automatically started to form that deals with aesthetics differently: printing textiles with algae growth for instance. Or making jewellery from cows’ and pigs’ bladders. We categorised these kinds of exhibitors in a kind of experimental zone. We keep calling it “the dirty corner”. That won’t be the official name, of course, but it does say something about the presence of a raw edge. More abstract and less obvious – this produces particular new aesthetics with a poetic quality and consequently deserves its own theme.’
Does the theme-based approach start at the entrance? Or is there a kind of introduction first, like last year?
GK: ‘The entrance was always very big and busy. Very erm… facility-based, with catering and shops. Last year, this was intertwined with Organisation in Design’s “ode to the city”. We’ve devised a different interpretation so as not let the entire space be used for an introduction. We’re turning it into a truly substantive zone. This results in more square metres, and gives visitors more air. That feels less oppressive for people when they come in. And the second hall, too, which was used as an events hall in previous years, will now be laid out with presentations and exhibitions.
MK: ‘In our set-up, this first hall will cover the background of the creative industry at the moment. Scholten & Baijings will have a space there, and they are in the process of selecting young talent for a presentation there. New Window will be there, a young platform that initiates projects with various designers and creatives. That’s one of those things we wanted to include, to show the breadth of the creative industry. Otherwise, all these square metres are only about designers and their work. But you need the cultural entrepreneurs too. They’re also given a space and a face in this hall.’
GK: ‘We’ve looked for something of which we think: this is something we have to show now, this year at DDW. Each and every one projects that we think might attract a lot of attention in the coming years. At DDW, we can show them at an early stage.’
MK: ‘Exactly at DDW, because it’s a bottom-up event. Where you can exhibit stuff with the paint still drying. Fresh. A designer on the verge of an international breakthrough – that’s the kind of thing we consider to be important in the overall context.’
Do you have any time left for other things now that you are working on this commission?
GK: ‘Well, various projects run through each other at the moment. In the case of the Klokgebouw, we simply don’t know how much time it’s going to take exactly. And what it will all entail. The job is so extensive; difficult to oversee.’
MK: ‘We´re confronted with insecurities, while the layout and floor plan do have to be rounded off. We want people who´ve signed up in time to have a chance to make plans. They want to start preparing things. To be honest, we got into it a bit too idealistically. Which is why we´re now in a bit of a knot. Healthy stress.’
What will make it a success for you? Is this linked to an objective?
GK: ‘For us? When you visit the building and feel the idea is well-balanced. At such a busy venue, the idea of “restfulness” might not be entirely well-chosen, but it´s the intention that there is more to it. Balance is an objective for me.’
MK: ‘If we get responses from which it appears that people are less daunted by the sheer size of it all. That would make me very happy. The effect of the message you convey strongly depends on how you walk through the building. How you experience it. In previous years, you went from one thing straight to another. That soon makes a building like that cluttered and chaotic. Quite soon, you no longer have any idea of what you´re looking at. And what you can expect. If this theme-based approach helps people navigate past the works with increased focus, it will contribute to a feeling of restfulness.’
The elevator pitch: why should people definitely not skip the Klokgebouw this year?
GK: ‘DDW has come forth from a bottom-up culture. At the same time, Eindhoven has the Design Academy and the University of Technology. And the Natlab… the technology and Brainport section… Design goes wonderfully well with Eindhoven and its agglomeration. Once a year, this all comes together. In the Klokgebouw.
Interview and text: Hofman & Donker (www.hofmandonker.com)
Dutch Design Week
Oct. 18 through Oct. 26, 2014. Eindhoven, the Netherlands