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OBJECT Rotterdam, 1-4 July 2021

July 02, 2021

The jubilant mood of this annual event signals a return to optimism following delay due to COVID-19

Known for presenting cutting-edge, forward thinking design, OBJECT Rotterdam returns for a second year to the monumental 1932 HaKa building. Described by OBJECT’s curator Anne van der Swaag as ‘not your average fair’, part of OBJECT’s allure is the annual peripatetic opportunity to see the best design (both established and new names) set amid a rotating selection of the best of Rotterdam’s architecture. 

‘All Eyes on the World’ by Sandra Planken of Studio Noun

A contraction of its original name Handelskammer, the HaKa building was designed as a food wholesalers cooperative by Herman Mertens. A member of Holland’s ‘New Tradition’ architectural Modernism movement, their collective thinking reflects a similar design shift seen at this year’s editon of OBJECT where the best traditional techniques such as jacquard weaving merge with 21st-century concepts, digital tools, and manual techniques. 

COVER looks at a few of our favourites: 

‘All Eyes on the World’ by Dutch designer Sandra Planken of Studio Noun is ‘a tactile tapestry touch’ exhibition that features her hand-tufted Lips Chair and tufted wall tapestries and cushions. Playful intuition is at the heart of her practice. Patterns take cues from ‘the human and animal body’ which helps to understand why her chair has an anthropomorphic quality that means while you’re ‘hugging’ the chair, it’s ‘hugging’ you back. 

Collaborations at OBJECT include Moe Kim Textile Studio based in the Hague and Tilburg-based textile artist Larissa Schepers. Together they present ‘Niemandsland’ (No Man’s Land). Coming from different cultural backgrounds—Schepers is Dutch and Kim is Korean—’Niemandsland’ is a land where ‘we can come together and play’, says Schepers. Their unique handmade wall pieces feature embroidery with beads (Schepers) and weaving (Kim).

Based in the Netherlands, Milou Voorwinden is a textile researcher, designer and artist specialising in weave. Promoting innovative ways of using traditional weaving methods, Voorwinden uses contemporary digital tools to create fresh and colourful editions. Her goal is to rediscover, renew and re-apply age-old methods with her multi-layer product development and woven space research. 

OBJECT Exhibition by Milou Voorwinden

Founded by Dutch designer Laura Luchtman, KUKKA is showing ‘Chromorama’ at OBJECT. A self-initiated R&D project, ‘Chromorama’ is the design and development phase of KUKKA’s research into optimal colour selections for people with colour deficiency condition (also known as ‘colour blindness’). The condition creates a viewing experience where the colours green or red and occasionally blue are indistinguishable. Woven at the renowned TextielLab in Tilburg, KUKKA’s colourful jacquard weave tapestries address the failure of aesthetic and decorative objects to accommodate those with colour deficiency, while they equally appeal to those with a full range of colour detection. 

Chromarama I, KUKKA at OBJECT Rotterdam

In a global period of boundaries, restrictions, limitations, and lockdowns, designer Roos Soetekouw presents ’Searching Freedom’ at OBJECT. Contrary to expectations, the catalyst was not finding freedom from COVID-19 restrictions, but her own ‘restricted’ thinking regarding her textile practice. ‘I imprisoned myself with too many boundaries concerning textiles.’ Soeteouw spent the past year working with unfamiliar materials to overcome fear of ‘their boundaries … and [learn] how to use them.’ The result is an intriguing range of hybrid objects including ‘vases with capes’. Soetekouw’s studio output includes stunning Verdure-style Gobelin jacquards she designed for upholstered banquettes and chairs in the restaurant of Hotel Deventer.

 ’Searching Freedom’ by Roos Soetekouw for OBJECT Rotterdam

OBJECT Rotterdam 2021 should be remembered not only for the designers who exhibited, but for the young, upcoming talent whose plans to exhibit at OBJECT were waylaid by the financial repercussions of the pandemic. One in this group is Rotterdam-based artist and textile designer Athena Gronti. Gronti’s quilt series ‘Am I Clean Now?’ explores feminine hygiene products and society’s traditional views of women and their bodies, but it is also a metaphor for the layers of hygiene the world has experienced since the start of COVID-19. 

OBJECT Rotterdam’s strength is based not only on its annual location change throughout this port city, but its integrated platform of diverse talent. COVID-19 has challenged this diversity, but the 2022 edition expects to restore equilibrium. ‘The textile scene in Rotterdam is so inspiring and OBJECT is such a wonderful platform for both established and upcoming talent,’ says Gronti. ‘I am looking forward to participating next year with new work!’

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