Milan 2016 – Design Academy Eindhoven presents Touch Base an exhibition that reconnects with tactility and features projects by students who wish for a more tactile surrounding. From nomadic wool processing units to an exploration of chameleonic self-driving cars design and a real petting zoo waiting to be cuddled. “Touch Base explores the countermovement response to the empowering but overwhelming presence of technology and digitalism” say curators Ilse Crawford and Thomas Widdershoven.
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Visitors are welcomed to the Petting Zoo 2.0 hosting sheep and goats. “When is the last time you touched a farm animal?” Asked us at the exhibition on show in Ventura Lambrate – Via Cletto Arrighi 10. “For many of us, our main interaction with the very beasts that form the basis of much of our nutrition and clothing is limited to Youtube”.
In the TOUCH BASE exhibition visitors can pet the animals which activating a digital relationship. This manipulated interaction investigates the boundary-shifts between (human) nature and technology. It involves the effects of touch on people and animals, and the creation of awareness through touch.
“We live in an an era where screens, apps, texts, games and email dictate how we live and communicate. The projects on show at Touch Base react to a world where our sense of touch has been increasingly numbed, negated, vilified, and even sexualized” comment curators Ilse Crawford and Thomas Widdershoven.
The main exhibition features tactile project by students and alumni. Guilhem de Cazenove designed a mobile wool processing unit that allows shepherds to actually make an end product of washed wool. “Gathering people around actions such as degreasing, washing, drying, carding and felting helps also to preserve age-old traditional skills” comments the designer.
Nina Gautier worked with tactile-unpleasant stingy nettle and used every part of the plant in woven blankets that are surprisingly strong, soft and silky. The designer mixed nettle fibres into her fabrics and made dyes in multiple shades of green letting the hidden merits of stingy nettle shine through.
Tamara Orjola presents series of ecological stools and carpets made with processed pine needles that show a high-quality look and feel. Each year 600 million pine trees are cut down in the EU and 20 to 30% of their mass is needles. Thanks to standard manufacturing techniques like crushing, soaking, binding and pressing it’s possible to turn pine trees needles into a textiles, composites, paper, and even extracting essential oil and dye.
Maddalena Selvini presents S-POT, a collection of stackable vessels and objects. The designs are made of a particular Italian soapstone that is used for its heat-holding properties. The designer also repurposed sand left over from smoothing the soapstone to make compatible stoneware plates, cups and a teapot.
Sanne Muiser highly tactile fashion and interior fabrics were designed as a second skin. Inspired by the extremely high perceptiveness of our skin, the designs are reminiscent of fur and made of needle-punching natural materials such as wool and sisal into a man-made latex base.
It won’t be long before cars become self-driving. As the discussion about the future focuses on technology, Frederik Deschuytter explores the design impact of it all. What will we do while the car carries us along? They might become mobile cocoons for sleeping, or transform into temporary offices on the go. At Touch Base the designer presents a neutral shape made from mirrored material, showcasing the surroundings instead of the vehicle.
Behavioural psychologists argue that touch is more than just an optional sensation. Without it we are left vulnerable – physically unsure and emotionally insecure. “We will always have an instinctive desire to gather tactile information through interaction with the physical world because to touch is to feel physically and to sense emotionally… And a touchscreen, after all, can’t touch you back” said Ilse Crawford and Thomas Widdershoven to ArchiPanic.