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by Thomas Widdershoven

Initially we were nervous to come to Milan with a topic like shit, but the more we discussed it, the more we realized it was absolutely necessary. Yes the title is explosive, but it is also entirely appropriate. The exhibition has been designed to present the breadth and attack of the Design Academy Eindhoven’s new Food Non Food department.

Shit from this vantage point is the connector – it links food to non food and sets the tone for the department which at least so far has little to do with cooking and everything to do with systems, rituals, and materials.

We launched this department because food and all its myriad associations have always been a part of the academy’s DNA. Jason Page’s 2014 graduation project, which digitalized our archive making complete themes easily accessible, beautifully communicates this. His timeline of food related projects
forms the center-piece of the exhibition, which covers everything from eating and excreting to recycling and protesting.

‘Eat Shit’ is a definition of the human condition. You eat, you shit, you eat, you shit, and then you die. Olivier van Herpt’s ‘3D Ceramics Printer’ is a phenomenal project with solid research that captures this circular rhythm of life.

Van Herpt dealt with the limitations of 3D printing technology head-on by coming up with a machine as well as a process that made it possible to print medium and large-scale domestic objects from ceramics. He spent two years designing his printer which can be programmed to move in a particular pattern, but also the extruder can be programmed to stop and start. This means the clay can be controlled and do so much more than just ‘excrete’ in one continuous line – a typical limitation of current 3D technology.

I like how this machine deals with clay, which is really just decomposed biological material and river sediment. As a material, clay ends up becoming very personal. A designer works and moulds it and eventually comes to identify with the result. In a similar way, a human being identifies with his or her poo – we could even go so far as saying that while
a designer makes and then identifies with clay, a person makes and then identifies with poo – internal evidence of an external mood. It is, after all, always about identifying with a creative process.

But ‘Eat Shit’ also embraces subjects like resources and waste. Shit – technically speaking – is a valuable resource that sits at the beginning and end of the food chain. But shit can also be the discards created by a contemporary fast and consumer lifestyle – discards that have a devastating effect on the natural environment.

Recent DAE graduate Pim van Baarsen’s project ‘Holy Crap’ rethinks the horrendous waste problems in Kathmandu, Nepal where rubbish is dumped in landfill or in rivers and even burnt. ‘Holy Crap’ is a new business model that encourages citizens to separate their waste at home, be more engaged with where it ends up, and to benefit financially as an incentive.

Our final interpretation of ‘Eat Shit’ is an expression of anger, an insult flung in protest at an opponent about inequality, unfairness or corruption. The project ‘In Limbo Embassy’ by Manon van Hoeckel looks at society’s outcasts – asylum seekers who have no legal identity and who are not and cannot be represented by any embassy. These are legal nobodies with a lost sense of belonging. Their realities, embraced as the tales of individual human beings rather than simple newspaper headlines, are truly tragic. Even the title of the project communicates an enormous life problem.

But what struck me most when I first saw this project was how when a person’s posture is altered, their new stance challenges your usual perception of them. In the pictures, these asylum seekers look regal, almost powerful. Even the way the blanket – a typical symbol of homelessness and poverty – is folded shifts the meaning of the symbol. These people have lost all political power, but they are beautiful and strong with an air of genuine dignity.

Another reason I find this project so important is that it best captures my perspective on the Design Academy Eindhoven’s vision on education. At our school we train designers to connect to the world around them – we want them to remain engaged at all times, but we want them to do that optimistically. Change is urgent, but our students are not tasked with solving all problems, they are tasked with designing alternatives. From there it is society, the public and you who is tasked with making the next move.

Which is why exhibitions like the Salone del Mobile are so vital. They fuse designer and public who together embark on the final step of the design process – interpreting and realizing work in a more political, economic and social sense.

And lastly I’d like to extend sincere thanks to BioArt Laboratories. Our collaboration with them throughout ‘Eat Shit’ has enabled our designers to become better acquainted with some of the most cutting edge biotechnological materials. The BioArt team has coached students towards a better understanding of new techniques and how these materials can be adopted in design. For the Food Non Food department this will really help to define the way forward.

Thomas Widdershoven,
Creative Director Design Academy Eindhoven

Photo Olivier van Herpt : Femke Reijerman
Photo Manon van Hoeckel : Alexander Popelier

Published: 14-Apr-2015 12:08
  • ‘Eat Shit’ is a human condition

    Eat Shit - Salone del Mobile - 2015

  • ‘Eat Shit’ is a human condition

    Olivier van Herpt – 3D Ceramics Printer

  • ‘Eat Shit’ is a human condition

    Pim van Baarsen – Holy Crap

  • ‘Eat Shit’ is a human condition

    Manon van Hoeckel – In Limbo Embassy

  • ‘Eat Shit’ is a human condition

    BioArt Laboratories