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What do you get when you offer a group of designers access to a million-hour audiovisual archive? That was the question of the annual professional development programme Open Set Lab undertook in collaboration with the Design Academy Eindhoven, the Academy of Art and Design St. Joost and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

For the past five months, a group of international design practitioners came together - physically as well as over the web waves - to research their relation to moving images and sounds from Holland’s history. Last Saturday we celebrated the programme’s outcomes with a conference, titled Fluid Memory, which took place at Sound and Vision.

Throughout these past months, the participants were supported with input and feedback from a legion of artists, researchers, and other interdisciplinary brain power. Where we started from the concept of algorithms influencing information and news practice, participants gradually developed their own takes on the material we have in the vaults, which resulted in a temporary exhibit showcasing their concepts.

 

 

Works and an Exhibit

A number of participants found the moving image medium conductive to a new video piece. Ada Favaron took the notion of conspiracy theories and derived a new take, haunted by ‘80s inspired Italian techno beats, on the question why the Dutch stand so tall. Stefan Hoja used YouTube clips of world leaders showing small moments of human failure by comparing them in a side-by-side narrative. Giulia Bardelli created a collage of Dutch youngsters using “gendered” movements, underlining them by filling the frame like a memory game and putting those fractions of gestures on repeat.

 

Mariska van Zutven had a more research-based approach, as she looked at the evolution of singles in Dutch society through their representation on TV. Iris Cuppen, Elinor Salomon and Lacey Verhalen all treated the landscape in their own way: Iris read out a Tumblr-supported essay about today’s flâneurs, Elinor created a scroll-through website from cut-outs from News from the West outtakes depicted exotic landscapes from what were then the colonies, while Lacey dove-tailed the belief in a “typical Dutch sky” or light by assembling and enlarging depictions of blue skies found in the archive content.

Maria Muñiz and Derk Over, finally, had the most hacking approach of the group, with Derk depicting a word cloud from recent news items on migration, depicting changes in vocabulary and mindset in the way we tag these items, and Maria using an Orange-pi to “liberate” archive materials by scanning them on a flatbed office scanner, creating abstract sceneries compressing the original story.

Thoughts and a Publication

The conference was bookended by more theoretical explorations of the concept of archives - with Annet Dekker leading a panel consisting of artist and curator Tina Bastajian, media scholar Carolyn Birdsall and Ernst van Alphen. The panel explored notions of neutrality in archival descriptions and approaches.

Some of these were captured ahead of the conference by Eindhoven’s Masters programme Design Curating and Writing students, who captured the thoughts of lecturers involved in the programme. Under the guidance of Alice Tewmlow, their collaborative interview and editing process led to the publication of this edition’s Open Set Reader. Go explore it and let your mind wander.

More info

  • Lectures from the Open Set sessions, symposium and the conference are freely available for viewing at Open Set Lab’s YouTube Channel

  • Dive into the Eindhoven Design Academy’s Master of Curation student’s take on archival research in the Open Set reader

 

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