Approaching the 2018 Universität der Künste Berlin Rundgang one was obliged to navigate the weekly antique and flea market that overwhelms the Straße des 17. Juni, and thereby walk, hurry, past untold objects whose ill consideration, self-celebration, kitschiness or plain ugliness confuse, insult, anger and otherwise offend the senses and sensibilities.
An inconvenience, or an omen for that which awaited us……….?
With a roll of some 3500 students the Universität der Künste, UdK, Berlin is not only one of Germany’s largest art colleges, but one of Europe’s. Whereby it is, we feel, interesting to note that despite being ostensibly an art school, a third of those students are enrolled in the school’s design courses. In fact, so interesting do we consider it to note, we also noted it in our 2017 #campustour post, where we also delved a little deeper into to the history of the institution.
Presenting a mix of graduation projects, works in progress from Masters students and the results of undergraduate semester seminars, the 2018 UdK Berlin Rundgang provided the familiar overview of the year past in Berlin Charlottenburg. And not just the overview was familiar.
One of the advantages, joys even, of having been visiting design school annual exhibitions for the 8,000,000 years we have, is that one develops and understanding of how individual schools lay out their exhibition; you know in advance where which departments, which classes, which studios will be presented. The context is always different, the layout invariably, and pleasingly, the same. Thus at the UdK Berlin we always know in advance we’ll start on the top floor and the Technology and Construction courses by and with Prof Holger Neumann.
Which we did.
Conceived with the aim of providing students with an introduction to contemporary construction & technology principles, processes and materials the Technology & Construction classes this year past included projects such as Material Looping which challenged students to consider uses for the waste material generated on a daily basis in the workshops of the UdK, and the possibilities for scaling up their plan to accommodate that waste created by society in general; Tip-Top Projekt which explored extending the functionality of the glass jar through the addition of an injection moulded plastic component, and which produced results such as, and amongst many others, Käv by Isabel Meier-Koll which proposes transforming a glass jar into a to-go coffee/tea mug or IFA by Anna Ryzhova which allows the use of empty jars for mealworm farming, the only reference to the once ubiquitous mealworm we met on our #campustour; while the perennial UdK undergraduate sheet metal folding project this year asked students to develop a step(ladder) from 1 m2 1mm thick piece of sheet steel. And which most of them did.
That the diploma presentation in the top floor Aula didn’t feature any projects that particularly engaged us – as ever, its almost certainly to do with us and not a reflection on the projects, and in any case who actually cares if we engage with them or not? Important is how the student posed their initial question, approached answering that question, what abilities and understandings the student demonstrated and if that was considered sufficient to allow them to graduate – we continued our way down through the floors, passing on the way the results of projects such as Life Cycling in context of which students were asked to develop a bicycle accessory to be produced from injection moulded plastic, and which among a series of interesting propositions Shao Chuan Lin proposed with BloK a very satisfying, and eminently logical, update on the home bike stand. Elsewhere, in context of the Braunprize, a student design prize initiated by Braun in 1968, Bastian Thürich developed with Undendlicht a light concept inspired by a child’s question on the nature of infinity and which in its method of operation, its user interaction, reminds of rosary beads, an adult reflection on the nature of infinity. And which aside from such philosophical imagery was also a most interesting and innovative light design proposal; while with Cafeteria the UdK students continued their re-design of the ground floor cafe, whereby we say do what you want but keep the Dub!! On the day we were there it was admittedly more a jazz soundtrack going on, but that was fine, it made perfect sense on that sunny Sunday morning, but the music is a fundamental and essential component of the UdK cafe, helps make it that unique location it is and shouldn’t be discounted in any new proposal.
Scurrying up the back stairs from the cafe, the classes Ceramantics I and Ceramantics II by and with Prof Axel Kufus concerned themselves with the forming of ceramics, I focussing on, if you will, the end result, surfaces, structures, shapes, II on the more practical tools and machines for contemporary/future ceramic production, be that digital or analogue. Among a wide range of responses, Sandro Bodet developed with PRESSTO! a muscle-powered ceramic extrusion machine, if you will an analogue 3D printer and a device which allows for the rapid creation of porcelain forms; Lisa Böhm & Agnes Kelm attached a potters wheel to a bike, thus allowing for all manner of new jokes about pottering about on your bike, even if we are unsure as to the legal position regarding throwing pots while cycling; while with ME_CHINE Joana Schmitz and Laura Laipple tapped, literally, into human thought process to create objects: an EEG machine feeding brain patterns into a specially developed programme which translates them into 3D printed objects. Each one unique and a direct reflection of your mood/consciousness at that moment. And a project which interested us less on account of its relationship to production of ceramic objects as to considerations as to what manner of mischief could be realised by Californian Tech conglomerates with such, relatively, simple technology. The mind boggles. And produces a vase as it does.
And while not exactly part of the intended UdK Rundgang presentation, a Big Up to whoever was responsible for the guerrilla action which saw postcards advertising the design courses at the Kunsthochschule Kassel being liberally distributed throughout the UdK, there being little in life we enjoy more than some good natured, peaceful subversion. Even if in the interests of fairness and transparency one must point out that the Kunsthochschule Kassel students are revolting…..
Leaving the main UdK Design Department building it was, as custom dictates, round the corner to designtransfer, the UdK Design Department’s exhibition and event space, where in addition to a presentation of those projects by UdK graduates being funded by the university’s Creative Prototyping programme there was presentations of those works realised in context of the projects Power House which explored sustainable objects/systems for domestic spaces and of numerous objects created, thus far, in a series of workshops under the title Celebrating Glass, a presentation which featured a few interesting proposals including PotPot by Yannik Rohlof, a very pleasingly considered glass cooking pot intended, for example, for heating milk, melting chocolate or applying heat to any other foodstuffs where there is real risk of burning/boiling over.
Full details on the Universität der Künste Berlin can be found at www.udk-berlin.de