Dutch Design Week explores the digital layer of design

At the Dutch Design Week you can find several projects, exhibitions and installations investigating the changing human condition in the digital age.

Clement Valla, Postcards from Google Earth

Dutch Design Week is preparing us for a future that looms ever closer until it is becoming the “Extreme Present”. All over Eindhoven, various exhibitions and projects explore the connections and dysfunctions between information and design, between virtual and physical. At the festival venues, visitors find various studies of the wrinkles and distortions that the “digital layers” generate in human environments, gestures and habits. The show even explores numerous different scales: from the governance of the smart city (and society) to the production of individual objects.

The “Embassy of Data” is one of seven embassies at the World Design Event, a series of original functions scattered across Eindhoven. The research analyses the territory of Eindhoven through 523 pairs of different data packets. Of these information sets, only 38 can be publicly consulted on a specialist portal, and the majority of them would be incomprehensible to most people. Hence the purpose of the exhibition is to produce awareness of the use of the data we have produced and collected to manage so-called smart cities. The event raises ethical questions about ownership and use of this information. It represents the city of Eindhoven in clear and original ways, revealing the mechanisms and devices of analysis and control often concealed from citizens’ eyes.

In the “Mined” exhibition at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, the relation between information and design explores one of the most fascinating and interesting lines of research. Freed from having to become a consumer product, the experiments presented at the show clearly reveal how the gap between man and machine is being closed on both sides. The more than 170 graduation projects include many video installations and performances – reflecting the DAE’s very broad conception of design – as well as analogue transpositions of digital reality. Here are two examples. The Handbook to Digital Decision project embodies the chaotic and fragmentary way we relate to information online in an ordinary book. The result is a kind of snakes and ladders, where the user has to cope with the unexpected – memes, viral videos, or other agents of distraction – and decide what to read. The Last Job on Earth applies artificial intelligence to the human body, imagining a human in the service of machines, rather than the other way around. The human becomes an instrument, a function. This performative installation allows us to communicate with a flesh-and-blood Siri via a keyboard, revealing the growing ambiguity between man and machine.

Finally “Materialising the Internet” at the MU gallery brings together works by twenty internationally known artists and explores the aesthetics of digital material, with virtual and physical now two interlocking spheres. This augmented, complex and stratified reality is still in its early stages. We are at the very beginning of a new geological era: the Digicene. The works exhibited share two fundamental features: they are a critical analysis of our time and seek to imagine a future that is impossible to foresee. Among them, Postcards from Google Earth reveals the distortions of physical reality in the digital sphere. The work consists of a series of screenshots from Google Earth featuring viaducts and footbridges. The images were generated by analysing the altimetry of the earth's surface and applying satellite photographs to it. The result is a succession of surreal pictures. Pretty Fly For A Wi-Fi, by contrast, is one of the physical manifestations of the Web, namely a collection of Wi-Fi antennas, cobbled together out of everyday objects. These are the vernacular instruments of contemporary life, the Stone Age of the digital era.

Exhibition dates:
until 29 October 2017
Dutch Design Week
Different locations in Eindhoven

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