There is a moment where emotive design becomes overwhelming…in the best possible way. And that is the means by which Amsterdam-based design duo Studio Drift fabricates and engineers its site-specific installations and interactive sculptures and objects, plus films. Dutch artist Lonneke Gordijn and Swindon-born UK artist Ralph Nauta instituted Studio Drift one year after they graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven. Today, work by the studio has been acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
They’ve also shown at all the art fairs and art cognoscenti outposts — Design Miami Basel and La Biennale di Venezia dutifully included. Then there are the multitude of awards; “The Moët Hennessy — Pavilion of Art and Design London Prize” in 2010 for the “Fragile Future Concrete Chandelier” and “The best piece of Arte Laguna” for “Flylight” during the Arsenale 2014 in Venice, just to name a few. In essence, the studio focuses on space, light and the intricate relationships that exist between nature, technology and humankind. “I think they tap into anxiety we have about technology and embed ‘human’ or ‘living’ qualities into designs and thinking about everyday objects,” says Storm Janse van Rensburg, Head Curator at Savannah College of Art and Design.
“For example, tiny things are repeated endlessly or are enlarged so the relationship to our bodies as viewers becomes emphasized.” And so the creation of a breathing, living flower chandelier, for instance, is just another day in the life of Studio Drift.
The studio doesn’t just furnish and play in isolation, however; it’s 21st century-made and therefore loves to collaborate. In fact, the studio’s research filters through to scientists, university departments and research facilities, computer programmers and even engineers. Imagine all the research compiled in a piece like “Flylight” — a site-specific light installation that directly interacts with its surroundings. The light mimics the unpredictable behavior of a flock of birds in flight, symbolizing the conflict between humans, the safety of a group and the
freedom of the individual.
The idea of nature and man runs throughout the studio’s work. With “Fragile Future III” the artists fuse nature and technology to concoct a fairylike multidisciplinary light sculpture consisting of 3D bronze electrical circuits connected to light-emitting dandelions. The piece incorporates real dandelion seeds and every spring Gordijn and Nauta, with their team, harvest dandelions as they collect seeds for other private commissions. This, in turn, allows for a “Fragile Future” unit to fluctuate in size, sometimes spanning walls, other times just peeking through an entryway.
The artists see this specific creation as a “critical yet utopian vision on the future of our planet, where two seemingly opposite evolutions have made a pact to survive.” The mix of high-tech married with simple poetic imagery is exactly the interaction and intersection where Studio Drift likes to hover. Leaving the viewer to consider his or her own connection of bare humanity to nature and to technology is the whole idea; a dandelion blowing through our minds if you will.
Along the same thesis is “Ghost Collection,” where the duo questioned that which runs under the surface of objects and the way that people have inner complexities. The Studio created ghost chairs with very clean-cut, graphic silhouettes, but under a certain light, an ethereal shape is almost magically revealed. According to the artist, “the contrast between the minimalist outside and the complex inside of the chairs is striking and reminds the viewer that what you see is not always what you get; just like humans, these objects hide an unexpected essence under their skin.”
This mysterious beauty, and its simplicity, is what gives Studio Drift its real, future-focused aura. Instead of just creating art, for art or vanity’s sake, it’s tackling issues, ideas, philosophies and even harder-to-stomach thoughts with ease and clarity that not only feels generous but also is incredibly relevant in this highly uncertain world. The Studio is ultimately intrigued, as are we all as humans, by the continuous attempts of our very nature to deal with its limitations, so miraculously opposed to nature as these ventures might be.
Earlier this year, Studio Drift showed during The Armory Show in New York at Pace Gallery’s booth. For more on the artist behind Studio Drift and their work, visit them at www.studiodrift.com