COrona? No problem! The students at the Design Academy Eindhoven have recently dealt with pretty much everything that preoccupies us in these complicated times: climate change, environmental destruction, migration, digitality, gender, colonialism, spirituality and and and. The exhibition with around 200 bachelor’s and master’s theses from the year 2022 feels like a trip through today’s misery. The boys are trying to find answers to the many crises in their design discipline.
Only the experiences of the pandemic do not seem to play a role in the concepts, installations and objects that the designers developed at the end of their studies. The “Graduation Show”, as the Dutch Academy’s final exhibition is called, is the heart of the annual design festival Dutch Design Week, and many visitors travel to Eindhoven from abroad especially for this. Because the university is one of the most influential in Europe, its experimental, research-oriented and non-industrial approach is style-defining. And those who excel at the “Graduation Show” have good chances for a career in the industry.
So everything, just no Corona? At first glance: yes. At second glance, it is striking that there was a common theme in many of the works in the Graduation Show: connections and relationships. The English explanatory texts often talk about “connecting” or “reconnecting”. Candidate Marte Mei van Haaster, for example, cultivated a piece of land on the outskirts of Eindhoven for her master’s and investigated the relationship between humans, animals and plants. In public workshops, people cultivated gardens together and enjoyed rural life in order to, according to the text, “experience a connection with nature”.
Studies in isolation of the pandemic
Josefine Andersen, on the other hand, took our relationship with clothes and designed clothes that can also decorate the home at the same time. In the evening, the coat is covered for the wardrobe, the blouse for the curtain. Andersen wants to enable us to create “meaningful relationships with our personal possessions” so that we don’t think about throwing them away.
Ollee Means had similar thoughts when he conceived the concept for The Guilder, an online repair network. It aims to bring people together at a local level who need something to fix or who have the skills to do so. As Rebekka Jochem suggests in her master’s thesis, we should even become friendly with our data double – dado – with all the data stored about us. She devised a contract that establishes dado as a legitimate representative in the digital sphere and regulates the relationship between humans and dado.
A graduating class that had to study in the isolation of the pandemic and is now looking for relationships to overcome the isolation again. A corresponding number of cables, hoses, pipes, wires and interfaces can be seen in the exhibition as a metaphor for everything to be connected with everything else. Also striking: students often bring themselves into play: they research their own origins, socialization and historical context, address personal sensitivities, body images and mental health – right up to activist interventions.
The need to place oneself in the world can be felt everywhere. There are only a few perfect objects in the exhibition – in the sense of an industrially manufacturable product. Rather, people put their hands on it, things are made in small quantities and with proud dilettantism.
Jelle Seegers, for example, has set up a huge, rotating lens in the courtyard of the exhibition building: He can use it to focus sunlight and melt metal. He then grinds the cast parts with a pedal-powered machine. A nice comment on the current energy crisis – but also a model for a more sustainable future for humanity? Rather not.