Daily report from the Beijing Design Week | 26 September 2013
From 26 September to 3 October the Creative Industries Fund NL will publish daily reports on the website covering the Dutch creative industries at the Beijing Design Week.
Report by: Edo Dijksterhuis
Photography: JW Kaldenbach
This is a typical project by Salon, the interdisciplinary platform for design, fashion and art in Amsterdam. Gijs Stork and Manon Schaap, the initiators, started Salon in 2010 to dismantle the fences separating the various disciplines and place creative cross-pollination firmly in the middle of the real world. After a successful showing in Istanbul late last year, the Salon has now landed in Dashilar, a so-called ‘hutong’ in the heart of Beijing, as part of Beijing Design Week.
Van der Hoeven has made a sort of mascot for the old working-class district with his giant brush. Bureau Lava does something similar, but on another level. With a mobile studio that looks a lot like a Popemobile made of metal, they go along the local traders and design logos for them. Identity and branding are self-explanatory in the Netherlands — Lava can thank much of its twenty-year existence to them — but here in these surroundings dominated by small and anonymous shops packed with generic mass-produced articles, they can be considered a minor revolution.
A recipe for embedding everything in the local context
The Dutch participants at Salon Beijing — as well as some Chinese counterparts — were asked to take as little material as possible with them from home. In fact, their baggage was only supposed to consist of an idea. Apart from that, they had to use whatever items and people they could find here. That was a recipe for embedding everything in the local context, and a tough challenge it was too. For they had just one week not only to get their work and exhibition space ready — vacant dwellings, small factories and shops — but also to find materials, source suppliers and get their idea produced.
Local materials turn out to be a fantastic source of inspiration for reuse with a twist. Frank Bruggeman combined thermos flasks and disposable hats with dried lotuses and kitschy plastic roses to make a suspended sculpture. Henny van Nistelrooy unravelled a length of thick, woven fabric to make a hammock. Eric Roelen stuck sturdy-looking cabinets together with bright pink polystyrene foam. Desirée Hammen drew inspiration from the T’ai Chi philosophy of soft force and used the marigolds growing all over Dashilar to make dye for clothing. And the Noman duo rendered the irregularities in the local street pattern visible by clasping bamboo stakes in a rhythmical arrangement between floor and ceiling.
For some designers, Salon BJ offers an opportunity to rework previous designs or develop them further. Borre Akkersdijk applied his circular-knitting technique, with which he has already come up with innovative textiles, to fabrics found on location. Chris Kabel took the circular wooden bench he designed in 2010 for the Witte de With centre and made it out of a typical Chinese raw material: two-hundred plastic stools that he had painted in a colour scale from white to red in a tiny factory. The duo rENs, who have been researching the colour red for years, got the local school of fashion to make basic blouses so that they could immerse them in traditional vats of paint in a laboratory-like setting. And Elisa van Jolen, always interested in production processes and their underlying value patterns, pulled locally manufactured sports shoes inside out to reveal the stitching of anonymous factory workers.
A practical do-and-show approach
The reflexive side is balanced by the practical do-and-show approach. For instance, Conny Groenewegen considered the nomad who populates Beijing and what he might be wearing. Femke de Vries examined the role of textile in delineating space — a current theme in a neighbourhood where families occupy an average of twelve square metres of living space. And illustrator Jan Rothuizen took a close look at the neighbourhood and hung his ‘mental map’ next to a drawing made in Amsterdam showing the accommodation occupied by an illegal Chinese resident there.
Dialogue on as many levels as possible: that’s what the Salon is about. In that sense, Dashilar was a fortunate choice of location. Its six-hundred-year history makes it just as old as Amsterdam. And like the Jordaan district, it was primed for demolition for a long time. However, the authorities realized in time that a little variation in the urban landscape is invigorating. The densely populated neighbourhood has dynamic climate of working and living that is all of its own.
Sander Wassink makes of the most of that. He bought heaps of fake counterfeit shoes made in local sweatshops, cut them up, and stuck the pieces together again to create new, futuristic-looking models. Shoemakers working on nearby streets did the stitching and sometimes added an idea of their own too.
Klaas Kuiken and Dieter Volkers took the idea of co-creation a step further. They asked a fishmonger around the corner, a butcher, a 79-year-old grandmother passing by, and a girl of 13 living nearby to each make a small teapot from a ball of clay. Their creations are displayed in a drying cabinet, with their photograph and personal details hanging on the wall next to them to create a double portrait. For Kuiken and Volkers, it is about personalizing what is usually an anonymous utensil, as well as about designing an archetype. Their plan is, once back in the Netherlands, to scan all sculptures made in Dashilar and lay them over one another so that they merge to form an average: a portrait of a neighbourhood in the form of a teapot.
Via & Dutch translation