I discovered the work of Bart Hess just a year ago, at the Salone del Mobile 2007. The video of his graduation project A Hunt for Hightech was shown as part of Family of Form, the exhibition that the Design Academy Eindhoven had organized in Milan that year. Just one video on a small screen and several people glued to it, fascinated and sometimes slightly horrified. The images showed mutant skins, breathing shoes, living furs and metallic gloves. My vocabulary is actually even more limited than ever when it comes to describe the futuristic fabrics and textures that the young designer had imagined. As his website won't give much details about him and his work, i decided to write Bart and pester him with my questions:

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Hi Bart, i found little info about yourself online. Would you mind telling us who you are, what your background is and what you do right now?

I'm Bart Hess, I graduated a year ago from the Design Academy, Eindhoven in the Man and Identity department. This department looks at finding new materials, forecasting trends in fashion and culture. I have always had a fascination with photography, painting and fashion. Some people would say that I am shy and introvert, but when you see my work it reveals an opposite personality. I think I'm not so good at storytelling with words, but rather expressing myself with stories through images and visuals.

Right now I'm working for myself exploring several fields that straddle textile, fashion and animation, these fall within the commercial and art world.

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In the description of A Hunt for Hightech you write that it is "more interesting to imitate an imaginary world"? Why is that?

With a Hunt for Hightech I made a collection of fake fur that touches on elements of fetishism, human instinct and new animal archetypes. With that collection I did not try to mimic real animal kingdoms but create a fantasy world of my own. The way this started was through the process of imagining fantasy animals; animals that could be genetically manipulated, part robot, part organic, how they would move in their environment and what they felt like to touch. I then took my (imagined) gun and 'hunted' them, looking for their extra ordinary, high tech furs. I thought about tactile qualities like reflection, the way the hair grows and three dimensionality and took these characteristics, magnified them, manipulated and exaggerated them.

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Can you explain us which kind of materials you have designed for the project A Hunt for Hightech?

I used materials that were not organic or commonly seen in the fashion world, and blended plastics, metallic's, silicon's and technical foils. With these materials I tried to manipulate and re-create the same qualities and tactile feeling my fantasy animal kingdom has.

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Which technological discoveries have inspired the whole project in general?

Prosthetic technology, where robot or machine meets with human nerve ending and flesh is definitely an inspiration but not an obvious link when you see the result of my project. Genetic manipulation has a clearer connection where it allows or dictates a new or changing evolution. This combination of nature, technology and evolution inspired me to create my own new animal archetypes. In my "Hunt for Hightech Animal Kingdom", animals can change their prints to distract predators, or grow their hair meters longer to appear bigger.

Your work has been exhibited in many venues and magazines. How does the public react to it?

There seemed to be two reactions from the public, there were people who were not freaked out at all and found it very attractive. These were the people who investigated and were intrigued by the furs and discovered the fabrics were quite soft, even though they were made from needles and sharp metallic's. The other type of people were scared and shocked with the idea of breathing shoes, these were the people who would get hurt touching the furs. One of my intentions was to communicate tactility and spire an emotion between the viewer and the furs, and this happened in both cases.

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The models you present in A Hunt for Hightech are futuristic and fascinating. Do you see them more as sculptures or future pieces of clothing?

I really believe these are the fashion furs of the future. Why kill an animal and re-form the fur into a shape? Why not have the animal already shaped to your body, have it living and breathing around you, like the shoes. Whilst the technology is not there yet, in the meantime the animation is used as an inspiration for the fashion industry. At the moment I'm consulting at the Stijlinstituut in Amsterdam making animation and photographic collages to express and create future atmospheres. This gives me the opportunity to re-create ideas that really do have an impact on trends in the future, be it fashion, product or architecture.

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Walter Van Beirendonck, Men's collection Spring/Summer 2008 - SEXCLOWN

You also collaborated with my favourite fashion designer, Walter van Beirendonck. What was your role in the development of his collection? Can you tell us a few words about the collections you participated to?

I started working with Walter van Beirendonck for my internship. For six months I worked on the "Stop Terrorising our World" collection doing computer illustrations for prints. This was where it all started and I have been collaborating with Walter ever since. For the "Sex Clowns" collection, Walter had the idea to create avatars and he asked me to visualize his illustrations into 3d drawings. The Sex clowns collection combines new digital life-form, with an all time classic fascination of Walter, fetishism. Fantasising about new types of Fetishism, he created a group of self-conscious men, proudly presenting their masculinity and body diversity.

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In some of your work it seems that the garment or shoe is almost part of the wearer's body. How do you think new technologies could impact the body aesthetically and fashion-wise?

I think a good example of where technology and the body meet, is a project that `I have worked on with Philips Design Probes team, a provocation for an Electronic Tattoo. In this scenario a tattoo traverses across the landscape of the body moving and morphing with touch and gesture. In this case the tattoo becomes a fashion accessory using the body as canvas for moving image, where the technology opens up new forms of communication between two people.

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The photographies you make together with Lucy McRae present alternative bodies or body accessories, cosmetic surgery, etc. Where does your inspiration come from?

I work with Lucy McRae in a primitive and limitless way. We work with our instinct and start by using a material on our body, exploring volumes and ways of re-shaping the human silhouette. We work fast, for one day at the end of the week expelling all our creative energy and stress, making a series of photos that capture an atmosphere. We share a fascination with genetic manipulation and beauty expression, but it is not our intention to communicate this. I think unconsciously our work touches upon these themes, we create future human shapes and new body form's. LucyandBart is blindly discovering a low - tech prosthetic way for human enhancement.

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Any upcoming project you could share with us?

I have an exhibition coming up in the Summer in Fort Asperen called 'Closer to the Skin'. For this show I'm making large scale furs, approximately two metres square, I have developed a method for making the furs automatically that enables me to create the pieces much faster and bigger. I'm also starting a project now with the Textile Museum in Tilburg where I am designing my own collection of textiles using a 3d knitting machine, laser cutting and a loom. There are several other projects I am working on, but unfortunately I can't mention them yet, they will be on my website when they are finished!

Thanks Bart!

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Portrait of Bart Heiss

Related: Lucy McRae's talk at NEXT.

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Design Products' Platform 8 had invaded the +Arch offices with some really nice projects. My favourite is by far the Office Collars designed by Simone Brewster.

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Having observed that people working in open office space are constantly distracted by visual stimuli, she suggested they wear one of her collars. They exist in different shapes, there's one open at the bottom to let you drink your coffee, another is open at the top for people who watch upwards when they need to concentrate and think. I wouldn't mind wearing one of them, they have a very charming Little House on the Prairie look.

Henny van Nistelrooy For today I’m a bird uses wireless CCTV observation systems and LCD tv screens to allow him to both fly a kite and see what the kite "sees" from the sky. A camera elevated on a kite is pointed at the person in control. The images are sent to the screen that is placed in front of the controller’s eyes.

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Henny is developing the project for RCA Summer show (15th till the 28th of June.) His plan is to have the project working for visitors so they can experience this themselves outside the exhibition tent in Hyde Park.

Video of the project. Images courtesy of Henny van Nistelrooy.

Platform 8 is headed by Gabriel Klasmer and Hannes Koch. The later was showing some of the latest projects he developed together with rAndom international at Spazio Krizia, a space they shared for the second time with Ingo Maurer. One of rAndom's exhibited pieces was the Morse Light.

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Morse is a first of a series of rAndom International Water Light Installations, which will ultimately result in the display of digital images and text with coloured water and air. Controlled with one pump only,Morse continously sends out a neverending stream of tangible morse code in the form of coloured water impulses. These travel through 300 ft of tube, giving the impression of a state of ants within the light. Visitors looked at it with obvious fascination, yet they mentioned words such as "hospital, creepy, blood," etc.

Wasn't very impressed by Ingo Maurer's gimmicky toothpaste and rat-inhabited lamps. The rolls of LED wallpapers were quite fun to look at though (but wouldn't want them anywhere in my flat, thank you.)

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The Salone del Mobile is over, but i'll keep on posting a few interesting projects discovered there.
Great Brits (part 1)

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Eelko Moorer (cf. his rubber bear skin, Bird people project) had a very colourful and crazy installation for an alternative living environment for the contemporary home. In the Jungle Groove is mostly made of jungle vines (green rubber covered rope) to mount on your kitchen or bedroom ceiling and get exercise or just some fun while you wait for the roast to be cooked. You can tie some accessories to the vines: a comfortable cushioned swing, some handles to set out a track, tropical flowers in Epiphyte vases which have long rubber hair, lights, etc. Really liked that one. It's like having a gym at home, but a decorative, fun one, not some techy treadmill you'd hide in the garage.

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&made was showing a few pieces of Climated Objects, a series inspired by climate changes. The designers have embedded dual-functionality into perfectly practical and normal-looking furniture that can morph into life-saving devices. The idea for the "Either Oar", a solid timber dining table, came after the recent spates of flash flooding. In case of flooding emergency the table transforms into a life raft, the legs and partial table tops are removed to offer themselves as oars.

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Peter Marigold exhibited Make/Shift, elements that adapt to and fit into the irregularities one might find in many English homes: pokey architectural spaces, weird under-hangs, and unusable corners (via). Made from a light mouldable plastic foam, the units expand and contract and can even be used as boxes to move house.

A smaller variation can be wedged into window frames – useful for people who can’t fit shelving into walls.

He also had some new pieces that follow the principle "A shape split into pieces will always add up to 360 degrees." It was a montage of very simple wooden crates which looked like a sculpture (actually, Peter Marigold used to be a sculptor). You could photograph them from any angle, they made a nice composition.

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There was also a fantastic example of Prop use. Prop is an element that can hold box shaped objects into corners when no wall fixing is permitted. I should get one of those as i'm currently living in boxes scattered around the appartment.

All the pictures i took at Great Brits.

0hiroookol.jpgOne of the best shows of the Fuori Salone in Milan is Great Brits: Ingenious Therapies, at Paul Smith’s European headquarters.

The works of the 5 young UK-based designers in the exhibition address a particular human emotion or need - fear, fiction, fantasy; escape; stasis and calm; perpetuity - all of which express a very contemporary take on the need for objects to perform a function.

Hiroko Shiratori’s Unusual Objects from Japan 1868-1945 was particularly charming. Her prototypes are inspired by the period that followed the sakoku, Japan's seclusion period that would last some 250 years. Each object, displayed like a museum piece, is supposed to translate the political, social and cultural changes brought upon by the opening of the frontiers.

The Meiji period, a time when the country started its modernization, saw the arrival of western style of eating. However, a number of injuries were caused by the mishandling of our pointy forks and sharp knives. This collection of cutlery using more traditional material were created to allow users to adapt to the new style in a smooth way (image below.)

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School uniforms started to show some influence from western fashions. A device was invented that woud allow the young girls to practice walking comfortably in high heels (cf. Wei-Chieh Tu's height-adjustable shoes.)

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A Tokyo barber, who had lost his hands during his military service in the early Meiji period, was helped by the local community to design tools that could be manipulated with the feet.

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Benshi, live performers who provided live narration for silent films, lost their job with the introduction of sound into films in the '20s. Many Benshi became Chindon-ya, street musicians who dress up and advertise in the streets. One of them has such limited musical skills that he crafted some musical instruments that could be played by the most basic movements of his body. For example, flip-flops became two-part rhythm percussions that make sound as he walked.

Image at the top: a two-legged chair used to discipline children into sitting straight.

0asecondanty.jpgThe most exciting exhibitions at the Salone del Mobile are usually the ones set up by the design schools. Design Academy Eindhoven being a big favourite, not just because of the works displayed but because the Academy PR people just make my life so much easier. They provide the press with pictures and a clear text presentation of each piece in italian, english and dutch. Immediately. No "write your name on this bit of paper and we'll send you some images next term." Actually i'd rather write about another school's show but there was no press material available. So i'll have to wait before blogging it. And i bet that when i get the press kit, i won't be in the mood for it anymore.

To celebrate its 60th anniversary this year, the DAE exhibition, called The Family of Form, presents the work of 3 generations of graduates who have investigated the identity of design.

The title refers to Edward Steichen's photo book The Family of Man. Published in the '50s, the book was the first to give an overall image of the peoples of the world, the uniqueness of their characteristics and the universality of their experience.

There are dozens of works in the exhibition. Just a selection:

Nacho Carbonell Ivars's Pump It Up is an air-filled chair that connects with a family of parasites, two dogs and two cats that gently inflates when you sit down on the chair (images.)

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In A Hunt for High Tech, Bart Hess seeks to harness both nature and technology and create armoured skin and fur for a new human archetype incorporating animalistic and fetichistic instincts (images from Bright.)

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Inspired by Darwinism and the theory of Human Evolution (all creations are named after a human ancestor), Yoad David Luxembourg's The Volution is a critique about fashion's serial tendencies through a family of garments derived from archaic postures and simplified silhouettes.

Simone van den Boom's project Kitchen Help Becomes Body Healer are glass containers shaped to resemble the organs benefiting from their contents of medicinal plants; the packaging indicates thus the healing powers of the herbs they contain.

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Sander Lucas's Distilling Machine for distilling your own liquor. The instrument was created by shopping for spare parts in the building market.

Willem Derks' My Archetypes reduces household electronics to very simple and utterly alluring archetypal forms.

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Image on the top is from Christoph Brach's project A Second Nature that depicts our inner anatomy with balloons.

Most of the images on the post comes from the press kit (name of the photographers was missing). All the images. More projects from DAE: Dutch ideas, Follow the Flocks, Post Mortem, Vehicle of the day.

Yesterday was another day at the Salone (actually at the Fuori Salone, the name given to the hundreds of exhibitions scattered all over the city as opposed to I Saloni, the official and pompous part of the event).

A few projects i really liked:

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Crispin Jones had framed several models of Mr Jones Watches and installed a choir of Tengu at Designersblock. Tengu is a charming little white usb accessory with a luminous face that responds to sound. Check the video and smile.

Tengu is produced by Solid Alliance, the manufacturers of gentlemen's must have devices such as the sushi usb keys and the Ghost Radar.

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The inside of Timorous Beasties's pendant lamps are covered with the usual hyper freaky/gorgeous pattern. When the light is switched off all you can see is a classic white lamp. The insects and reptiles creep up only when the light is on (see also their Malaria lampshades and low-life wallpapers.)

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Also at designersblock, Matthew Plummer Fernandez's Sound Chair, a piece of furniture which design was guided by sound (not my cup of tea but i thought that some of you might find it interesting) and the Hulger guys were inviting visitors to confess their wildest sins in the Confessional booth.

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In via Palermo, Sebastian Wrong was showing some quirky and elegant Font Clocks at Established and Sons. Based on the Grayson Time Management System, often present in UK post offices, banks, railway stations and airports, the clocks display 12 different fonts, all from the 20th century except for the gothic English Script, for the numbers indicating hours, minutes, days and months. The time fonts are the same for five minutes in every hour and at given moments within a year all the fonts will run together for five minutes.

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