The Look into the Unknown

This year's Dutch Design Week [] held a mirror up to current concerns and scenarios. One saw - not only what people create - but also how they will be shaped by new technologies in the future. Technologies enhance identities and make them possible. Identities in turn conceal technologies. The objects and installations on display are not always concerned with concrete design, but importantly with a poetic, almost artistic approach to what design could be - the mirror of humanity and poetic design as an instrument for cultural engagement.
If one considers the impact that these design objects and installations have regarding a self-triggering effect, one recognizes a denominator. Poetic design and the view into the unknowable scratch the surface, which we call the ego. Without us knowing it, we are touched, shocked and left alone with a sense of cluelessness and maybe even inspiration.

An object with such an effect due to its peculiarity is "Speculum" by Simone Smelt []. Soft tone black mirrors mounted on the wall let the viewer unnaturally look into a deep illuminated tunnel, which from a logical perception should not be there. The two interactive mirrors play with light and dimension, creating a mesmerizing channel of light that trigger the visual perception. Touch the mirror and the light wormhole opens up, touch it again and the tunnel changes its course. Smelt’s optical illusion is in a non-existent tunnel in the wall – a tribute to Alice in Wonderland, allowing yourself to take a leap into this parallel poetic world.
The project was part of the Design Academy’s Graduation Show [] and proves that design does not have to be functional in order to qualify as such. With her installation, she creates a feeling of unknowingness. It raises the question of whether we really have the urge for space, or whether a spatial feeling is enough to ease our mind. “Speculum” created the illusion of space.
Through her work, Smelt explores the techniques that push the limits of materials, leading them to create unexpected forms, revealing the beauty of their maximum expression.

The "Reinforced Light Object" by Hans van Sinderen & Fabian Briels features a similar aura []. The material of the luminaire device creates an uneven, visually flowing surface, which gets enhanced by a LED light source. It embodies the strength of glass and an encapsulated net structure, which, in addition to the light behind it, creates not only a fragile but reinforced compound, and a bionic shape, as if a cloth had been placed on a frozen sea and this shape was captured. Departing from the use of silicone and LED-lights, both having fragile qualities, the object combines these materials and principles together and creates a “Reinforced light object”. It gives the user endless possibilities for the placement of the product. Almost poetic – in the sense that a beauty is created through pictorial language and stimulation of the senses that can hardly be rationally explained – the object was displayed at this years HARDCORE exhibition [], that presented the subject of “counter-digital-movement” as the starting point for emerging designers. []

One is inspired to ask what excites us in undefined forms and abstractions of everyday objects, such as mirrors and lamps. It is the absence of being able to identify completely with something, but still being emotionally touched and the inaccuracy of the object itself. There is a lack of a static sense of belonging. Only with analytical force can such concepts be described in detail and one still remains under the veil of ignorance.
Foucault takes up this discourse in his work “Will to Knowledge” and deals with the problem of eliminating the subject while keeping the thoughts, and as an attempt to construct a story without a human being. The thought of the 'elimination of the subject' shakes at the foundations of modern conviction, since Descartes, the authority for knowledge and truth is the human being qua subject. How can a reliable, true knowledge be possible if this knowledge is not justified by the general reason of man as a subject of knowledge?

To be the source of all knowledge today also means to encounter a reproduction of this knowledge. Esmay Wagemans' "New Humanity" [] exhibit contains of a frighteningly real-looking female bust, modelled after a real person. The designer claims that her project raises questions of the identity-shift between robot and human. Are robots becoming us or are we becoming robots? "New Humanity" shows that we have already made ourselves a product that needs to be observed and points to technological developments that give us the opportunity to become our own creator, but also create a hyper-self awareness of the body. [ ] Humans aren't longer strictly nature, but also a product of culture. A human replicate is the most common interface, since humans are more likely to empathize with- and relate to creations that look like themselves. By being more human, robots are more accepted by human, the Designer says. With her project she points towards a society, in which the makeable human transformed from a disturbing fear image to a desirable ideal image.

Poetic design can be both, an instrument that opens up the view into the unknown and thus draws attention to the view of one's own perception of beauty, use and allegiance, but similarly, an unsuccessful provocation that contributes to the fear of the future and does not in any way productively advance what is happening. A trend of poetic analogy emerges, which creates premonitions without insisting on finality - away from proposals for solutions and towards the urge of ones own desire to know. []