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During Dutch Design Week, e52 will be introducing you to the festival’s Hidden Gems. Nine special designers who we feel are the stand-outs of this edition. A different Hidden Gem will enjoy the limelight each day of DDW. Today: BLANCCOLLECTIVE.

The rate and frequency at which you click with your mouse has a rhythm, and so does the way you type. How does this digital rhythm compare with a rhythm like the number of steps you take or your heart rate? And what do these rhythms say about your perception of time? That’s what Laura Koenen and Malou van Dijck, one of the design teams behind BLANCCOLLECTIVE, will show during DDW. “All of the designers in this collective want to create a kind of awareness among visitors in their own way,” explains Koenen.

Born around a year ago from the need to do autonomous work as well as assignments, ten different designers joined forces, came up with a theme together, and exhibited their work at DDW. The theme was ‘Concepts of Beauty’. After DDW they went their separate ways so that each of them could further develop their project. But it’s different this time. “We’re showing our ‘beta products’ at this year’s DDW; we’re learning from the design week and continuing to work on our products for another exhibition.”

The designer collective for this year comprises: Studio Op Poten  (Laura Koenen and Malou van Dijck), Atelier Mats and Studio Anne Ligtenberg, Studio Goof and Renske Verbeek, and Studio Desirée Wevers. Wevers and Studio Op Poten also took part last year. All of the designers do this in addition to their bread-winning work. They toil over their projects until the early hours to be able to give a status update at their weekly meetings together. The seven of them then reflect on each other’s work and spar over the feasibility of ideas. Koenen: “It’s a bit of fun, just like during your studies, so that you can get the ball rolling on the development of your own concept.”

The goal of the collective is to spend a year working as a group on a particular theme. This year that theme is the value of numbers, the etymological translation of ‘digital’. How do the analogue and digital worlds relate to one another, how do they mix? “We found out in the meetings that we’re all pretty physical creators. For example, Laura often works with ceramic, I work with steel,” says Goof van Beek. “We do work digitally – behind our computers – but how these worlds fit together, we have no idea. We’re all ignorant when it comes to this theme.” And that’s where the name ‘BLANCCOLLECTIVE’ comes in; it’s a clean slate.

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For their project, Van Beek and his girlfriend, Renske Verbeek, are collecting all kinds of data from their cats. “How loudly they purr, when they fart and how moist their noses are. People are also monitored a lot. Why is this, and what are we doing with this information? I’m surprised by how much data is collected and the various conclusions that we automatically draw from it.  I also want to collect various kinds of data from the people who visit DDW. How often someone looks at your work, for example. In truth it’s useless data, but I want to know what visitors do with it. For instance, if there’s a piece of work that isn’t being looked at much, will people feel bad and then go over to it? That sort of thing.”

A wide array of “weird terminology” has also been introduced by the digital world. Koenen: “Mats and Anne are making visualisations of these terms, such as ‘robot’, which stands for servitude, or how 8-bits actually look. They’re creating a human digital encyclopaedia.” Last year Desirée Wevers made perceptions of objects. “She’s taken that even further. She’s looking at the dimensions and examining how these relationships fit together and how she applies them herself. She found out that she kept subconsciously using the same dimensions, that she’d been programmed herself.”

What the next exhibition will be, no one knows. “It really depends on the next step we take.” Koenen believes that Eindhoven is the ideal place for the first exhibition. “You can do a lot of autonomous work and there’s a huge range of things for visitors to see, from Strijp-S and the Design Academy to here at the NRE premises. You have free rein and it’s a bit of a surprise terrain – you never know ahead of time what you’re going to get to see.”

The Nine Hidden Gems of DDW was made possible through the collaboration with Dutch Design Daily and DDW curator, Katja Lucas. Want to check out the Hidden Gems for yourself? Urban Exploring Tours and Koga will be organising a special bike tour every morning and afternoon where you will see the selected designers. For more information, click here.

Text: Corine Spaans | Photo: Renske Verbeek


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