How is the creative scene in Belgium?

There is a great, vivid and divers creative scene rather constituted of small and middle sized organizations which is in favor of a cutting edge culture as much on the level of the arts, music, dance... This scene benefit from good cultural politics and public funds which for example allow us to run our 'MediaRuimte' gallery, a space for experimental and digital design.


What is design for you?

Our understanding of 'design' is directly derived from its origins (designare) which means to do something and to give a specific meaning, signification, to an idea, a concept ... and this in a 'concrete' and elementary manner. From this understanding you directly see our attachment to the Bauhaus movement in the beginning of the century. The Bauhaus gave birth to 'industrial design' as a synthesis between the arts and the ongoing industrialization. This tradition was followed up by the Ulmer Schule after the Second World War. Designers like Otl Aicher, Dieter Rams...extended industrial design to communication design. They overcome the idea of design as the conception of a specific 'product' to a 'global' approach branding 'Braun' or 'Lufthansa' but also the Olympic summer games 1972 in Munich. From the pictogram to the logo, from the cloth up to the entrance tickets and programs... all followed the same design concept to communicate a common idea and image of a new, post-industrial, and peaceful Germany.


Do you think that design has to be useful?

Yes but we have to agree on the term 'useful' and move away from a primary 'functional' understanding. There is a narrow border between the arts and design and there is a reason why we call one design and the other arts. But what both have in common is that they operate on a semantic level and as such communicate something more than the 'function' of an object/artifact. This 'hidden' meaning communicates on a 'meta' level its true significance. As such they define cultural codes, esthetic judgments and give meaning to any artifact.


In your profile, you use the term "metadesign". Could you explain what did you mean exactly?

When designing interactive, reactive, generative... systems the artistic work lies in defining a set of rules. The prefix 'meta' describes exactly this shift from the design of an object towards the design of a process. This process is defined through a program, an algorithm...and as such is based on a common language. A language is a system of rules and such operates on a 'meta' level rather than on a content level. The significance of the object such moves from the object towards a 'meta = higher' level.


What are your sources of inspiration?

Besides the already mentioned ones you find in the cybernetic arts of the 60's the basis of our 'system art'. Artists like Vera Molnar, Manfred Mohr... and to certain extend Sol Lewitt, which worked with algorithmic art in the 60's, originated 'generative art' and influence our work. In general abstract art often qualified as 'formalism' including hardedge painting, op art, minimal and conceptual art. As our group name already indicates our background lies in architecture and town planning from which we carry many inspiration and methods in our approach.


Within your realized projects is there one you love in a special way?

To answer I would like to mention two projects: the chrono.tower and chrono.prints. Based on the same process, relating the basic units of time ( hours, minutes and seconds) with the primary colors of light (Red Green and Blue), they form an illumination project for Brussels Dexia Tower and a series of 24 computer generated prints. On the tower the process of color surfaces blending into each other as time progress describes a light cycle of increasing brightness until the entire tower appears in white at midnight. After midnight the process is inversed resulting in a light which slowly moves to the sky as daylight returns. The plot of the process in form of 24 prints, each visualizing at one single view (glance) one hour of the process, forms chromatic textures of time. The theme of the 'artworks' is light and its relationship with time. In this sense, the prints represent not just a formal examination of the traditional medium of painting but also of its central themes: color and light, which not only places them in the tradition of the abstract, minimal concept-art of the 1960s but continues this tradition with the help of a computer.

The programming of such a system, which is based on a program language - that is to say, on something logical - creates a visual language made significant by the creation of rules. These "chrono" works demonstrate that Parameter Design is just such a method: and one which can be employed using various media (in this case the lighting of a tower or computer-generated printing).


In 2003 you launched a gallery called MediaRuimte. Why? What were the most significative projects showed there?

Exploring the field of digital design the diffusion and mediation of artworks plays an important role when defining new design practices and formats. For this reason we started our exhibition platform 'MediaRuime" but also to create a space to exchange with other artists, cross experiences, knowledge, resume to get our culture and vision out there.


I find very interesting your interdisciplinary vision and approach and your use of technology. You work with light, interactive design, generative art. Could you tell me something more about your rapport with technology?

We are conceiving our projects not according to disciplines, technology or formats but to systems. We identify: connective, interactive, reactive, performative, analytic, generative systems whereas the second order qualifies 'open' to' closed'(self contained) systems. So technology plays an important role in our design but the center of our work is the conception of processes and systems independent from specific technologies or artistic domains. While following this approach we came to formulate concepts which are related to system design. These two axes, systems and system related concepts, form the framework when we start to work on new projects.


Some of your works are urban projects. Is it difficult to design in a very large scale?

In general 'public art' has its specific constraints which become even more crucial when working with technology. Our 15 years of experience allowed us to acquire the knowledge to master the entire design from conception to production. Our methodological, conceptual and theoretic approach further allows us to overcome the purely technological aspects and to find adequate formats and technologies to cope with the constraints of public art and its large scale.


Contact Store Facebook Projects pdf en | fr | nl

Metalab02 History Navigator (requires the Adobe Flash Player 8+).