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Van Abbe Museum hosts Thing Nothing, the third exhibit in collaboration with Design Academy Eindhoven, curated by Thomas Widdershoven. In light of Thing Nothing, Van Abbe has interviewd DAE 2015 alumnus and Thing Nothing participant, Olivier van Herpt. Olivier is also nominated for the Keep an Eye Award and the Milky Way Award for his graduation project, Functional 3D Printed Ceramics.

Read the interview, as published in Van Abbe Museums newsletter #17, Radically Yours, below.

Thing Nothing is an exhibition of the Design Academy Eindhovenin the Van Abbemuseum for the Dutch Design Week. It is the third exhibition in a trilogy in which the Design Academy researches its position in the contemporary design world. The first, Self Unself in 2013, was sparked by the unselfish inclination of present day designers. The second, Sense Nonsense in 2014, embraced the irrational as a creative force. This year Thing Nothing explore the value of the physical object in a de-materializing world. The exhibition looks at the way design, in dealing with actual materials, shapes and production processes, can also script the intangible qualities of the material world. Thing Nothing shows work by i.a. Aldo Bakker, Auger & Loizeau, Comittee, Imme van der Haak, Lucas Maassen, Metahaven, Ai WeiWei, and Jolan van der Wiel. One of the designers in Thing Nothing is Olivier van Herpt who graduated from the Design Academy this year.


What position do you take as a designer?
I’ve always wanted to make something that enables others to create something. Rather than sending more of my own objects out into the world, I want to encourage others to improve something or to make something. That’s why I developed a new design tool. Instead of designing an object, I’ve designed a method. In the future, 3D printers will enable anyone to make “anything”.

Is that what the world needs?
What is lacking in the objects made with 3D printers at the moment is aesthetics. These printers often produce objects that are badly designed, and are at best functional. That’s because most 3D printers currently only work with synthetic materials. I started experimenting with other materials. Clay is a natural material and the objects printed with it have a traditional look about them. My machine allows you to make sophisticated designs. Because you can see how such an object is built up and created from clay right before your eyes, this gives it more value.

Are robots going to take over the world?
Certainly not. People are afraid of technology because they’re afraid it will lead to the end of humanity. But my machine proves precisely that humanity, craftsmanship and technology go hand in hand. They complement each other. The way in which digital and analogue technology interrelate remains interesting. The machine I have created is stupid: nothing happens without a good design and human creativity. The software that drives the machine requires human input and monitoring. Technology is a means for allowing more creativity. That doesn’t work without a person.

Who will use your machine?
When I revealed online what I was up to, I received reactions from all sorts of places. All kinds of people saw its potential applications; an artist wants to use it to make huge human figures, a university wants to experiment using new materials with this machine. I’m also looking for new applications and am working with other designers and artists to do this. I’ve been looking at the concretisation of sound waves in clay with Ricky van Broekhoven. And in Thing Nothing you can see the results of my cooperation with Sander Wassink. We wanted to make an object that incorporates the environment. To achieve this we scanned the cross section of a tree trunk. The vases were given a second layer and information was added to the original shape. I’m fascinated by everything that this design tool can and does make possible.


For more information about Thing Nothing, visit the Van Abbe Museum website. The exhibit is opened in the Dutch Design Week, and lasts from October 17th to November 15th.

Published: 09-Oct-2015 16:30
  • Van Abbe Museum & Olivier van Herpt

    Olivier van Herpt - 3D Ceramics BA Man & Activiy (Keep an Eye Grant nominee)