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DDW Trend: Keepin’ it real

18 October 2020

Iris-van-Wees app ©Iris van Wees
Fake news. Deep fake. Augmented realities. Hacked elections, according to some at least. Probably the same people who think a potentially deadly virus is crazy. Truth can be manufactured. The borders between online and offline morph and a young generation of designers moves fluidly between both worlds. Just look at how easy it was to switch from a traditional design week to a digital event with virtual rooms where designers can exhibit their work.

In her new project Virtual Tactitality, Ambassador Sabine Marcelis collaborates with Dimenco, a tech manufacturer from Eindhoven who works on innovative ways to present products. The virtual visitor's eye movements are tracked via the computer camera while viewing her online exhibit. Then, seemingly automatically, her elegant objects get a close-up. Online becomes offline – and vice versa. Just like the work by Post Neon, a designer duo comprising Vito Boeckx and Jim Brady, who can present themselves with 20-odd designers, thanks to talent development through the Stimuleringsfonds voor de Creatieve Industrie. They create digital experiences and physical installations, explore alternative realities with in-person and non-in-person spaces. Their unique work is every bit as enigmatic as it sounds. To make it concrete: Jim Brady graduated last year from Design Academy Eindhoven with Immersive Journalism, a fluid narrative form of journalism, augmented reality and storytelling. Along with Broeckx, he is now responsible for the artwork for the Dutch hip-hop phenomenon Ronnie Flex. From innovative fact-finding to the digitisation of hip-hop, a traditional culture based precisely on old-fashioned skills such as DJing, graffiti and breakdancing. From high to low – and keepin’ it real.

Fashion designer Iris van Wees, nominated for a Dutch Design Award in the category Young Designer, doesn't distinguish between digital and analogue either. In the specially developed Iris-van-Wees app, you will find clothing and accessories that do not exist in the material world. At least, not literally. Her designs are worn on social media or in games, but they also play into the offline identity of the 'wearer' of this virtual fashion. With this, Van Wees leads the much-needed transition from a wasteful and self-destructive fashion industry to a contemporary representation of identity in all areas of life. Where does one identity begin and another end? Very striking: with a visual language that harks back to the 80s. Old and new, that too.

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Students of Design Academy Eindhoven know – of course – like no one else how to bridge the gap between online and offline. Even literally. As a graduation project Nele Hartman made Polarised Light, a beautiful wall panel for which she installed old computer screens that now function as optical lenses. They analogously change the light, colour and shape of reality. This escapist fantasy world seamlessly joins with the bleak Covid reality.

Talking about the discrepancy between a real and a self-created reality, Leanne van Hees developed Modern Masters for her graduate project from the Design Academy Eindhoven. As a response to selfie culture, visitors to the Rijksmuseum can make a self-portrait in the style of the admired paintings with this installation. Suddenly, it's your face beaming from amongst Rembrandt's Sampling Officials. Turning yourself into a priceless masterpiece – why not?

Ines alpha
© Manifestations

The concept of individual beauty has long since ceased to exist. The Spanish artist/designer Inez Alfa has developed virtual make-up she uses to freely fantasise about how far we can go in customising beauty. After all, why put on an overpriced Chanel jumper when you can also wear a floral face? You can apply these face filters for example with An overview of Inez Alfa's work of can be seen at (or in? that boundary has also blurred) the art & tech festival Manifestations.

Living alone (together)
© Hanneke Wetzer

Designers are at the forefront of exploring these boundaries, just as it should be. But nobody needs to be a good follower any more. Mu op Strijp-S is featuring The Self Design Academy by Mieke Gerritzen for the whole week. Inspired by the increasing popularity of the self-help industry, eighteen creative strategies and techniques by as many artists and designers are shown that we can use to for self-development. Naom Youngrak Son has developed the Becoming Noam face filter, which puts her own face over others' faces. This lets you take on your own desired persona.

Go for a walk around, The Self Design Academy is a welcome physical experience in amongst all the screen time this week. But don't forget to log back in again. After all, there is also the Self Design Academy Share-programme, with lectures, presentations and performances. Every day, simultaneously in real life and on the Internet.
Jeroen Junte, editor-in-chief DesignDigger.