Experimental process

In a recent text, Edith Doove writes, ‘A studio is a wondrous place, a place of practice. All is still in process – sculptures are looking for their place and form in it. A studio usually has one sculpture too many, but that is not a downside. It has too many sculptures to qualify as an exhibition hall. There is a lot of disturbance around the sculptures: comfy chairs, books, magazines, cups and saucers here and there. The place may be dirty, dusty; it is certainly not tidied. There are sculptures that are only just finished, some already wrapped up and set to go. It is a place for living with the sculptures. Sculptures come into existence in it.’ (26)

The 4th Triennial is not attempting to reconstruct the designer’s studio in the exhibition hall. Alongside the final product it does however also show the experimental process that precedes this result. Prototypes, sketches, photos, working material, etc. document the research and development for the project.

Around thirty designers from Belgium are present with one or more recent products or projects. Together, they form a heterogeneous group. Methods and starting points differ and the final products are not always what they seem. The choice was not obvious and was advised by a working group. Six broadly interpreted starting points form the basis for the selection. Thus, the (industrial) product may have emerged from a traditional practice and retain the material sensitivity and tactile quality in the industrial product that is inherent in the traditional craft. The product can also be the result of a craftsmanlike creative investigation which subsequently has to be translated into an industrial production process. Since industry and the associated production logic cannot be flexible enough for the machines to be easily adapted to the innovation to which the craft-based investigation has led, the conversion is a long and arduous process. Designer and manufacturer together have to want to look creatively for solutions, have to be willing to make adjustments, both to the design and to the machines, and must want to accept the limitations that necessarily go with industrial production. The final result can also explicitly pick up ideas that do not belong in the industrial design process but are derived from a craft-based context, such as imperfection, coincidence, individualisation, an idea of fragility and of cultural diversity. In addition, the product can be conceived based on a sculptural language or it can have a striking graphic or sculptural form as a result of the material and technology used. It may also be an industrial product in which artistic ideas are reflected. Finally, the starting point may be an industrial product that has been reconsidered from a conceptual context, with an (artistic) interpretation as its counterpart. What this selection ultimately produces is not a better form of design, but a different form. The meeting between industry and the non-industrial perhaps has something that can be extrapolated to the fourth power.

 

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