Jury report FORMAT 2019: Interdisciplinary and ground-breaking

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The laureates of FORMAT, the new mentoring trajectory organized by Z33 – Centre for Contemporary Art, have been selected. The jury received more than eighty submissions from designers in a variety of disciplines, ranging from architecture and fashion to design in the broadest sense. The jury has selected nine laureates, two of which work as duos.

The selection of Inès Péborde (ISURU Brussel urban design, Neo-herbalism), Bert Villa (Sint Lucas Gent Architecture, A Reappropriation Of Man-Made Structures), Sophia Holst (KUL Brussel Architecture, Common Space), Amandine David (DAE, Weaving code), Lukas Claessens (KUL Brussel Architecture, Digitale artefacten), Flora Miranda (KASK Antwerp Fashion, LaLaLand), Matthijs De Block (Sint Lucas Antwerp Conceptual Advertising, Copy me, AI) and the duos Jonas Althaus & Martina Huynh (DAE, 4D-Newsroom) and LeGrand Jäger (DAE, Karaoke booth) was based on their concrete project proposals, intrinsic talent and artistic potential.

GROUP DYNAMIC

The jury is firmly convinced of the laureates’ individual growth potential. Each of their project proposals was carefully scrutinized against a number of different criteria. These criteria might be summarized in terms like interesting, exciting, new and innovative. The strength of the project proposals was not the only parameter, however. Through this selection, the jury also seeks to establish a special group dynamic.

The respective disciplines of these laureates, their drive with respect to their process and their diversity of background and training all contribute to an interesting whole. FORMAT may focus primarily on individual support, but mutual dialogue and dynamics are a fundamental element of the trajectory. The selected laureates are marked on the one hand by a diversity of profiles and training, but on the other hand, there is a profound thematic complementarity. With a view to a joint presentation at Z33, the objective is at least as interesting as the means to attainting it.

Indeed, ground-breaking reflections and work are one of the central premises of FORMAT. The creativity of the artists will be especially stimulated both by working with external mentors, but also by coaching one another and being mutual sounding boards. The enriching group dynamic will foster individual artistic talent so that each of the laureates can and must surpass themselves. All of this will contribute to achieving the objective of a strong presentation in which the whole exceeds the sum of its parts. The graphic design and the scenography of FORMAT will be entrusted respectively to Janneke Janssen and Bram Vanderbeke, who also submitted project proposals.

The jury was unanimously surprised by the number and diversity of the submissions

TOEGEPAST 2.0

FORMAT will build on the legacy of Toegepast. No fewer than 21 successful editions of this trajectory were organized under the former Design Culture Platform. In the new constellation of Z33, Toegepast will be transformed into FORMAT, an improved formula that will hopefully yield even better results. We will capitalize maximally on Z33’s expertise and international network to offer every possible opportunity to the nine selected laureates, each of whom has a Euroregional link and graduated no more than four years ago.

Over the coming months, the laureates will be mentored intensively to develop their artistic project with a production budget of 5,000 euro and to inaugurate the new Z33 building with a joint presentation. This is a unique opportunity, and there is no lack of ambition.

ONLINE UNIFORMITY

The new FORMAT formula used a slightly modified selection procedure than its predecessor Toegepast. For example, candidates could only submit their applications using the special online portfolio platform, supporting their applications with a project proposal. In this somewhat ‘sterile’ digital context, it is much harder to stand out from the crowd with meticulously prepared presentations or carefully constructed physical objects.

The expert jury, comprising Teis De Greve (Laureate of Toegepast 21), Siegrid Demyttenaere (DAMN°), Roel De Ridder (Architectuurwijzer), Petrus Kemme (VAi), Bie Luyssaert (Flanders DC), Ruth Mariën (Onderstroom), Giovanna Massoni (RECIPROCITY), Fabian Seibert (Designmetropole Aachen), Myriam Vanheusden (Mia-H), Christophe De Schauvre (Wanderful.design),Tim Roerig (Z33), Heleen Van Loon (Z33) and Jan Boelen (Z33) considered more than eighty submissions. Despite the formal uniformity of these online submissions and the ‘limited space’ of online entry fields, they took their role very seriously.

The selection focused primarily on the project proposals and the argumentation. Although the space was limited by the number of characters, the jury made numerous annotations. In terms of phrasing and description – even with visual supporting materials / pdf – it is apparently no easy task to formulate ideas simply and concisely. It is not that FORMAT seeks only the best writers, but an artistic proposal need not be a forum for hermetic digressions in which many words say very little. This is a point of particular attention for future FORMAT proposal rounds and protentional candidates.

MATURITY

The persuasiveness of the project proposals — a striking number of which concerned architecture — was not the only parameter that the jury used; the portfolios were each carefully considered. It was noticeable that candidates who had completed several study programmes, often in different disciplines, were ranked significantly higher. Maturity is an evident asset. And this became especially clear when considering the mass of more than eighty submissions. ‘What?’ and ‘Why?’ are the building blocks of a good submission, especially because the jury likewise asks these questions.

Because the candidates may only have graduated no longer than four years ago, the ‘oeuvre’ presented also gives an important indication of the candidates’ drive and urge to explore. Does ‘maturity’ likewise play a role here? Not necessarily. The extent to which candidates find and pursue a certain artistic line – or, on the contrary, consciously deviate from it – is a striking element. Do the candidates follow a certain path or do they break new ground? Many of the jury members focused on this question in making their selection. Occasionally, the curriculum or the overview of reference works revealed a certain lacuna, which might indicate a lack of discipline, thoroughness or ambition. In some cases, the candidates’ career attested to an insufficient urge to explore or that they had not dared to deviate from well-trodden paths. Sometimes these aspects were hidden in small details that suggested that the candidates in question too often play it safe or have too little drive. An example? The suggestions for mentors and coaches. FORMAT takes you out of your comfort zone. Some boats are moored safely in the harbour, but that is not why they were built.

The (in)capacity for self-analysis or self-critique was almost always exposed in cases where a project proposal raised questions. Indeed, strange formulations or unclear ideas resulted in a (more) meticulous analysis of the curriculum or the portfolio, and this was invariably enlightening. The jury was unanimously surprised by the number and diversity of the submissions. Naturally, their artistic relevance and potential were discussed extensively with a short-list of seventeen candidates, who were invited for an additional conversation. This allowed the jury to assess not only the candidates’ motivations but also their personalities, and this ultimately led to the following nine FORMAT laureates.

The respective disciplines of these laureates, their drive with respect to their process and their diversity of background and training all contribute to an interesting whole.

Inès Péborde (ISURU Brussel Urban Design)

Neo-herbalism is Inès’ attempt to bring the classical botanical garden and herbal medicine into a new era. She aims to create a modular and practical system for hydroponics, intended for the cultivation of curative and/or medicinal plants and to monitor them with an app that also functions as an instruction manual.

 

Bert Villa (Sint Lucas Gent Architecture, A Reappropriation Of Man-Made Structures)

Is fascinated by ‘man-made structures’ that were once built to serve our primitive needs. Examples include electricity pylons, water towers, cell towers, antennae and chimneys. Referring to the theory of ‘affordances’ – or ‘opportunities for action’ expressed by objects and structures — in the perception psychology of American psychologist James Gibson, Bert Villa focuses on archetypes and conducts research into new ‘human points of identification’ that are both intriguing and question our current context.

 

Sophia Holst (KUL Brussel Architecture, Common Space)

Urban spaces that are not used or maintained by their owners are part of the informal ‘commons’ of the city. As a by-product of programmed space, they are governed by different precepts and spatial principles. Consequently, they may function as informal living spaces or meeting places. Convinced that architects can learn from these (un-)designed spaces, Sophia Holst will focus on Brussels to research the extent and character of these places.

 

Amandine David (DAE, Weaving code)

Aims to bring together three disciplines under the general heading Weaving Code: hand weaving, computer programming and 3D printing. She thus aims to research the historical and cultural origins of weaving patterns and to imbue coding languages and computer-supported means of production and 3D printing with new meanings. The objective of this research is to develop new tools and an unconventional design language.

 

Lukas Claessens (KUL Brussels Architecture, Digitale artefacten)

Is fascinated by the spatial atmosphere. He does not use photography so much as a medium, but as a point of view. Using scanning techniques, he attempts to make it possible to relive his fascination for space-time connections. What are the mediums of his digital artefacts? An intriguing exploration of a trompe-l’oeil of the imagination.

 

Flora Miranda (KASK Antwerp Fashion, LaLaLand)

LaLaLand consists of an analysis of the way in which machines observe human eroticism. Using 3D scanners, she plans to digitize 300 erotic articles of clothing from museums and then to use artificial intelligence to enable computers to generate new designs independently.

 

Matthijs De Block (Sint Lucas Antwerp Conceptual Advertising, Copy me, AI)

How will artificial forms of life interact with their environment and with humanity? Matthijs De Block is fascinated by the complex relationship between humans and technology, and uses (bio-)technology and (soft) robotics to research these relationships. By combining interdisciplinary skills and knowledge, he transforms complex ideas and mechanisms into an accessible installation. This installation challenges viewers to develop an intimate relationship based on algorithms.

 

Jonas Althaus & Martina Huynh (DAE, 4D-Newsroom)

What if we were not to consider history to be a linear trajectory but as a sequence of repetitions or ‘loops’ with more profound interconnections? If this were the case, how should we convey news stories? In a four-dimensional news studio perhaps? This is an exploration of alternative formats for news, for example in an augmented setting with historical cross-connections that enable one to see all the different sides of one and the same story.

 

LeGrand Jäger (DAE, Karaoke booth)

Under the heading The Internet of Ears: A Karaoke Conspiracy, this duo seeks to design furniture that is linked to biometric data – such as human voices – which are available thanks to the ‘internet of things’. The idea arose when they were in Taiwan and heard about a conspiracy theory according to which the Chinese government was using various state-owned companies to record and analyse human voices to establish useful ‘voice patterns’. Such a database of unique voice prints would be just as useful to the police as fingerprint databases. Whether or not this is really happening is far from certain, but with their unconventional karaoke booth, Legrand Jäger do seek to stimulate debate around the issue.


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