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Monsters & Manifestations

03 November 2020

©Alpha Ines and Kaya Kozo
This year, the Art & Tech event Manifestations offers a platform to more than fifty young design and art talents, mainly recently graduated. Not only on the website of Dutch Design Week (DDW) but also in another virtual world: Second Life. Through the Monsters theme, designers reflect on the interaction between people and technology.

They do so in a very different funny, spectacular or controversial way. They show the interaction between people and technology that has gotten out of hand, but also how technology can contribute to a more friendly and human world.
The theme of the fifth edition of Manifestations is appropriate because it is a good metaphor for what is going on in the world. Monsters refer to the uncertain times in which we perhaps even more than usual point the finger at someone else, the so-called bad guy. And - although this is often based on an assumption and misunderstanding - the fear of the stranger, the eccentric or the zombie grows. Although monsters are usually terrifying, ugly and superhumanly large creatures, there are also endearing figures such as Cookie Monster. “But he wants to eat more and more. So, he also stands for the excessive consumption and then dumping of all the purchased things and the waste”, says the curator of Manifestations Viola van Alphen. “Monsters is about the blurred line between good and bad, the Beauty and the Beast. And between other monsters and the monster that might be inside us,” she adds.
In this way, Manifestations also challenges you to take a critical look at yourself and to see to what extent technology determines your world, the way you think and act, and what the dilemmas are that the technical developments entail. For example, can you stay authentic in a world where mighty tech giants turn you into click cattle? And are you as a consumer slowly turning into a zombie?

Lonely Pool People
© Anouk Lemm

Lonely swimming pools

Viola worked together with several guest curators for a year to select projects by various designers and artists. “Eighty per cent of them are recently graduated young talent, including many good designers from the Netherlands,” she says. Projects operate on the cutting edge of art and technology. Robots, avatars, zombies and monsters pass by, but also e-fashion, a Muslim female race car driver, baby clothes for mothers with smartphone addiction, post-apocalyptic videos, emotion monsters. And lonely swimming pools.

Anouk Lemm is showing her project Lonely Pool People which has been nominated for the Young Talent Award: WDKA. An inflatable pool designed with the hot summer in mind for those with a "pool-less" circle of friends. With Lonely Pool People, the designer takes a satirical look at the increasing loneliness and isolation in our society. During her research on this subject, she was inspired by the inflatable doll, whose shape was the starting point for creating a one-person inflatable pool delineated by the contours of your own body.

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Speed Queen

Speed Queen is a powerful photo series in which the Willem de Kooning graduated designer Nazli Inci is the winner of the Manifestations Young Talent Award. In this project, she equates face-covering clothing for Muslim women with identity-concealing Formula 1 clothing. The "Muslima Driver" wears cool suits that she made together with her mother, a Turkish tailor. The images provide food for thought about the emancipation of Muslim women, stereotyping, stigmatization, prejudice, discrimination and racism. The question is: why is clothing acceptable in one context (Formula 1), while it is considered less socially acceptable in another context (headscarves, veils)?

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Floral face

The 3D make-up series by 3D artist and 3D make-up artist Ines Alpha is of a completely different order. She pushes the boundaries of make-up and beauty through 3D software and AR. She fantasizes how much aesthetic freedom we can have if we can freely express ourselves and create unlimited enchanting versions of reality. Because why would you wear a thick sweater on Instagram or Zoom, when you could simply have a flower or butterfly face? Cyber artist Nikita Replyanski (aka avatar R66) also allows us to wear different faces and clothes with her cyber fashion in AR. Her cyber-like face filters are a new way to do make-up and make your online presentation - in the virtual world - more colourful and diverse. Handy for Instagram, Snap Camera, Zoom or Jitsi.

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Second Life

This can also be useful when decorating your avatar in Second Life, where Manifestations is located. Some might have thought that Second Life, like Hyves, Myspace or MSN, had silently faded away, but the parallel world still appears to be alive and well. “Manifestations was looking for a good online platform to give the artists and designers visibility and to tap into a new audience,” explains Viola. And so she brought the Manifestations platform to life on Second Life (ed. as well as on Sansar and Mozilla Hub); it almost succumbed to success. In addition to the online DDW platform, you can now meet robots, monsters, and colourfully dressed creatures with your avatar as if it were a virtual version of the Burning Man festival. There are virtual exhibitions and a live performance by the Avatar Orchestra Metaverse, a band that gives live audiovisual concerts in the virtual world, such as in Second Life. Sounds, visuals and animations are combined for the presentations. There is Lab Gab: a Livestream viral show about events & talents, set on an island where Viola van Alphen - avatar Sandwoman - gives a bicycle tour through the virtual exhibitions of Manifestations. The closing of DDW was celebrated with a Monster Party where you could dance in your most beautiful outfits with of course a glass of virtual champagne in hand.