Harry Boom: Studio Wall 3, 1988; 200 x 500 cm, installation, acrylic, wool, acrylic fibres, glass, and silkscreen
Collection Nederlands Textiel Museum
Photo: Nederlands Textiel Museum


– JUNE 2013

Angela van der Burght

Posted 30 June 2013

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“If anything is possible, nothing is.” Harry Boom (1945-1995)

Angela van der Burght

We live in exiting times. Anything is possible, but so much is possible that we have to choose.
Robbert Dijkgraaf – Past President (2008–2012) of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and Co-Chair of the InterAcademy Council (IAC) (since 2009) is now Director of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. He is a mathematical physicist who has made significant contributions to string theory and the advancement of science education and he wrote in his column in the newspaper NRC how the new world order is working without boundaries of knowledge. Many American universities have auxiliary branches in China, India and Abu Dhabi and attract thousands of students with open line courses. He ends his column with the observation that globalization will radically change higher education. In fifty years’ time historians will look back and report that at this time we lost the boundaries of knowledge and that talent could flow freely. The big question is: where to?

In the same paper Mario Vargas Llosa wrote: Culture does not longer exist, the authority is scrapped, the elite turned away and all cultures are equal. The result is unfocused knowledge that has nothing to do with culture.
Llosa holds the ethnologists and anthropologists responsible for the assimilation of cultures, until the classical definition of that word was eroded. But also sociologists are responsible for the same revolution unleashed by the cultural thought in popular culture; a less sophisticated, thoughtful and pretentious form than the other one, more representative, more critical, but freer, bolder and truer. The raillery receives a dignity that matters, thus amply compensating for something in this sphere of banal or special incompetence, by the vitality, humour and unbiased way in which it reflects the most natural human experiences.
At this levelling, for the civilized man and woman the function of culture served to create ranking orders and preferences in the area of knowledge and aesthetic values. According to Marcuse a great specialist can at the same time be this one-dimensional man and an uncultured person who is not connected with other knowledge. Social communication which commonly is the glue of the social fabric, was maintained by the elite, the civilized minority, which also build bridges and made interaction possible between the different knowledge domains – natural sciences, humanities, fine arts and technology. One can order the full article on
A third article mentioned a new way of living where empty buildings and offices have been rebuilt into small living units for the ever traveling student and youngster that has a pied-à-terre here with a bed, a kitchen and a shower to continue his journey to other places to work and study with in his light luggage his laptop and connected with the world by his mobile phone.

If anything is possible, nothing is!

What do we do as professionals as one can even hire a freelance writer for one’s articles all over the world? One organization writes that they are “an online freelance writing service providing freelance writing opportunities to dedicated and committed writers worldwide. If you are an experienced writer and looking for an opportunity to make money from it, then do not waste your time waiting for customers to come and ask you to write something for them! Make use of the opportunity and benefit from a sufficient volume of orders and flexibility that most online writing services are not capable of providing.” For between $4 and $29 you will have your text. Another possibility is to hire freelance photographers between $14 and $19 per commission.

A great discussion was developing on design. Gabrielle Kennedy on wrote in What Design Can Do: “One of the most celebrated Dutch designs last year was a device called ‘Mine Kafon’. It’s a large wind-blown ball with bamboo spikes created to safely blow up land mines. The story behind the ‘Mine Kafon’ is very personal as its creator is 2011 Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Massoud Hassani who grew up in Afghanistan, a country filled with landmines.
‘Mine Kafon’ made it onto CNN and into the collection of MoMA in New York, which calls it an “outstanding example of [the] vitality and diversity” of design. This shows exactly what is wrong with Dutch design and Dutch design education, writes Timo de Rijk this week in a personal op-ed in NRC Handelsblad – the Netherlands (supposedly) highbrow newspaper. Timo de Rijk is professor of Design Cultures at the VU University in Amsterdam and a regular lecturer at Delft University of Technology. If the ‘Mine Kafon’ had been a good piece of design as a demolisher of land mines, it would have been bought by the Pentagon. But it wasn’t. Instead it was bought by the Museum of Modern Art. The work produced by designers in the Netherlands has become more and more personal and conceptual since the nineties and this has made Dutch design world famous, writes Timo de Rijk. Instead of making mass-produced usable objects, designers have preferred to exhibit in galleries. In doing this, design moved away from its social context.” […]
Timo de Rijk continues: “The ‘Mine Kafon’ is simply unbearable because it’s a deadly product. The success being celebrated here is not about hope for a safe former war zone, it’s about media attention for Dutch Design. All people involved know exactly what’s wrong here. But in Dutch design too many people – from teachers to governments – have started to believe in their own media success leaving design schools on a dead-end track. Design schools should start taking themselves and their tasks as educational institutes seriously again and develop sincere views on design that give centre stage to man, not the designer."

The story continued in the following publication on of 21 Feb 2013 by Gabrielle Kennedy: “Reactions to Timo de Rijk’s rather damning assault on the Dutch design education system have been pleasantly calm, and unusually cerebral. It seems most people can at least empathize with the main views. The media, by all accounts, is also accountable. At one extreme you have those who feel that design education should be about stretching the reach of design via research and experimentation. Design education should ignore limits, push forward and in so doing create fresh ways for design to play a bigger and broader role. This comes through creating possibilities, which can only ever be the result of trial and error. “I think the discussion could be interesting except Timo is confusing education and the marketplace”, says Jan Boelen, head of Social Design, a Master’s programme at the Design Academy Eindhoven since 2010.” (and director Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium) […] Although many say (off the record) that De Rijk took a cheap and easy shot that diminished his valid points. “I do not feel like the article speaks to me”, says Jurgen Bey, Director of the Sandberg Institute. “I would not have said it like he did, but he is making a good point. And it probably wasn’t very fair of him to use this one graduation project to illustrate his argument, but I am sure he [Massoud Hassani] can handle it given all the great press he has received.” Bey thinks the way to move forward in education is not to solve problems, but rather to find diversions that create new directions. […] Marty Lamers speaks to us as an independent designer and not as Head of Man and Identity at DAE. “I totally agree with De Rijk”, he says. “It is all about asking what design is about and I think it is high time we admit that we are past the gilded cage era of design. We need to see reality.” Lamers points to Western Europe’s all but dead industry and claims that students are not interested in addressing this, but rather aspire to become stars, designing limited editions for galleries. “I think the media is also to blame”, Lamers says. “And that includes” Lamers still supports conceptual thinking, but wants it coupled with more perspective and context. “Bring concept and context together”, says Lamers, “and that is what I call reality.” At the same time he agrees with former academy head Li Edelkoort’s claim that the world can’t have too many dreams.

On 16 May 2013 a panel discussion followed between Timo de Rijk, David Kester, and Jan Konings resulting in an interesting breakout session during that day’s What Design Can Do conference where De Rijk said: “It is about success in the media and the museum world, and I think we really need to ask what sort of success that is. It also makes me wonder: what sort of designers are we advocating?” De Rijk’s position on this object exceeds simple criticism. He is åangry. “This is life-threatening design”, De Rijk continues, “because it cannot solve a problem. It does not work and it can never work.” The discussion then switched to design education and if it can be blamed for any of this. “In an academic world one should be able to experiment on topics that are not necessarily interesting or even make sense”, said Jan Konings. Konings agrees that something did go wrong in education for a while and there were too many narcissistic graduation projects. He already senses that that has changed though. “I see most students now really looking for solutions to everyday problems”, he said.

My conclusion is that professional teachers first need to sort out the different disciplines in the design world as design is an ecological style which shows how man adjusted himself to his surroundings. Design types are in addition to folk art, outsider art, popular art, naïve and ‘primitive’ or original art, fine art and autonomous art for example craft, decorative arts, applied arts, fashion design, engineering design, functional design, industrial design, and product design.

I think that Glass is more! is a bridge and a network between the new ‘nomads’ and the ‘stay-at-home persons’ by reading books and news papers, studying works on expositions and writing critical articles to understand culture and art and sorting out the enormous chaos. Glass is more! provides the pair of spectacles to look through the glass and see the world and it tries to repair the connection between concept and context.

© Angela van der Burght, Cutting Edge 2, June 2012
read also > Design > Design/Antidesign

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