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Louise Schouwenberg, head of the Master programme Contextual Design at Design Academy Eindhoven, and Hella Jongerius, who studied at DAE in the late 80s, have combined forces on the curation of an exhibition and a publication, both of which can offer inspiration to the design community, as well as to future generations of designers.


The text offers information on the content of the publication and exhibition; the images are taken from the publication, some offer a glimpse of the exhibition Beyond the New, which takes place at museum Die Neue Sammlung / Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich until September 2018.

Beyond the New – On the Agency of Things is about objects and things and the intriguing relationship between the two. The publication is also about the distinction between novelty for the sake of novelty – the market’s obsession – and true innovation in design. The things we surround ourselves with in daily life have an immense influence on how we experience the world, and an immense influence on who we are, even when we don’t notice them consciously all the time. How can we estimate the cultural value of all these things? In Beyond the New – On the Agency of Things theorist Louise Schouwenberg and designer Hella Jongerius search for answers to this question. The texts have been written by the theorist, but the insights are the result of an exchange of viewpoints between both, derived from their different practices, over many years.

A Cabinet starts with a personal memory of an ugly cabinet from Schouwenberg’s past, followed by ideas on the importance of things, including those of Marcel Proust, Orhan Pamuk, Georges Perec, Tim Ingold, Martin Heidegger, Bruno Latour and Peter Paul Verbeek. Gradually a philosophical search for the essence of design unfolds - the interweaving of people and things - and the challenges it posits for designers, theorists and presentation institutes. Next to the larger text, this part of the publication contains many photos and short analyses of designs, art installations and exhibitions, each of which tells something remarkable about the relationship between people and things. Parallel to the organizing capacity of a cabinet by way of compartments, filled with carefully stowed stuff, graphic designer Irma Boom has meticulously enclosed the project descriptions and images in the larger narrative.

A similar alternation of texts and images also appears in the Hypothetical Conversation. The fictive conversation between Louise Schouwenberg, Hella Jongerius, Walter Gropius, Johannes Itten and Anni Albers has never taken place, for obvious reasons. But we can speculate which themes would have been dealt with if the Bauhaus designers would have been granted eternal life. Invariably the lively discussion is interrupted by images of things from the archive of Die Neue Sammlung, which slide as film stills over the pages. The speakers roam through the underground spaces of one of the richest design archives in the world, while speaking about the collected objects they encounter. The reader/viewer not only gets absorbed in the dark corners of the museum’s memory, but is also taken on a journey of questioning design. Diverse themes pass by, such as the question how design education can deal with current societal developments, and the importance of the constantly growing design archives of museums, whose value we can only estimate by interpreting and contextualising them, time and again.

Besides the images of existing works, the publication contains images of the installations that were specially created for museum Die Neue Sammlung – Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Upside Down – Reading the Archive, the largest installation, consists of cabinets from the museum’s archive. They are not placed in their usual upright positions, but recline with their backs on the floor; visitors are invited to imagine how the objects would have shaped people’s daily lives if their functionality were still intact. On the wall, textile panels are draped with provocative words, sentences, and questions that provide the visitors with clues for ‘reading’ the displayed things. Is the white cube context of a museum the ideal place for understanding the agency and the multi-layered meanings of functional items? The words are woven into the fabrics, which contributes to the tentative, searching impression of the installation. No truths are suggested, only temporary, in the course of time changing answers to the question how to distinguish mere stylistic variations, and their claim of the ‘new’, from the valuable innovation that this cultural field deserves.

Click here for a preview of the publication.

Texts: Louise Schouwenberg, in close collaboration with Hella Jongerius; Preface Angelika Nollert (Director Die Neue Sammlung)

Graphic design: Irma Boom

Publisher: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König

Pages: 192 pages

Dimensions: 185 x 255 mm

Language: English

ISBN: 978-3-96098-254-8

Louise Schouwenberg studied psychology (Radboud University Nijmegen), sculpture (Gerrit Rietveld Academy Amsterdam), and philosophy (University of Amsterdam) – a variety of studies that have turned her into a design theorist and lecturer who links a deep understanding of the hands-on artistic process to a philosophical approach of art and design theory. She has contributed to a range of publications on artists and designers, including Konstantin Grcic, Formafantasma, and Robert Zandvliet, and she has curated exhibitions on the cutting edge between art and design, among others for Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and the Textile Museum in Tilburg. Since 2010 Schouwenberg is head of the Master Department Contextual Design at Design Academy. Hella Jongerius graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven in the early 1990s and was part of a generation of young designers who, under the umbrella of Droog Design, became known as conceptual designers. The oeuvre of Jongerius is characterized by the links she makes between industrial production and craft production and the intensive researches that precede each design project. Her studio Jongeriuslab works for various international clients, including Maharam, Vitra, Artek, and KLM. For her impressive research on colours and colour pigments she received the prestigious Sikkens Award in 2017.

Louise Schouwenberg and Hella Jongerius have always combined their own practices with reflections on larger developments in design and the world. Their talks have led to three collaborations: Beyond the New (Manifest, available during Salone del Mobile in Milan, 2015), A Search Behind Appearances (at the request of Serpentine Galleries they created a shadow play in 2016, which was shown during the Salone del Mobile at La Rinascente storefront windows), and the exhibition and publication Beyond the New – On the Agency of Things (2017).

(The publication is realised thanks to the contribution of the Creative Industries Fund NL and PIN. Friends of Pinakothek der Moderne) 





Published: 13-Dec-2017 10:52