Studio Job is widely hailed as a design-world provocateur, whose strange, occasionally sinister objects straddle the divide between design and art. We count ourselves among its fans. But in a couple new projects themed around the Holocaust, the Antwerp pair went too far.
Job Smeets and Nynke Tynagel developed a fence that evokes the entry gate and crematoria of Buchenwald, where more than 50,000 people died during World War II. The fence was commissioned for the estate of a private collector in the Netherlands (a country that has its own rather fraught history with the Nazis). According to the Dutch design news site Design.nl:
Additionally, Studio Job designed a tablecloth printed with the diagram of a concentration camp for the Groninger contemporary art museum. The museum, which has generously supported the designers over the years and recently mounted a large retrospective of their work, rejected the cloth.
Initially, Studio Job defended its design under the banner of artistic innovation. “It is ridiculous that in the museum you can show dicks and vaginas with no trouble, but just fifty meters away in a private lounge they say no to my cloth,” Smeets complained on the Dutch talk show De Wereld Draait Door.
He also justified the gate, which caused such an uproar that the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, a Hague-based watchdog on anti-Semitism, urged against issuing a building permit for the “offensive fence, which is an attempt to attract attention regardless of the pain [it causes].” Design.nl reports:
“Well why the fuss?” wrote Smeets in one email. “We were using an iconography that is part of our history…. these pieces express the opposite of what you think they do …. please open your angry eyes!”
Smeets went on to say that Studio Job is more about art than design and thus prefers to ask questions than devise design solutions. Beautifying our surroundings is not their aim. On top of that he wants to provoke--to stretch his field of work. “These pieces are an attempt to break through the taboo or dogma,” he says.
The problem isn't so much that Studio Job should stick to fashion shows
and robber barons (e.g. less sensitive subject matter). Little, if anything should be off limits. They just need
to learn how to treat such subjects with the reverence they deserve, rather than the irreverence their work usually displays. We only have to look to some of the amazing holocaust museums to see architects and designers using direct references appropriately (Stanley Tigerman's Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center has a box car of the kind used to transport Jews to the camps slap bang in the center of it and it works in the context of the building). The problem is one of treatment, not of subject.
This recent work kind of blows the cover off of their completely vapid design/art sham they've been fooling the media with for the past decade. Let them build it, and let them retire behind those gates, never to be heard from again.
Back in the 1950s and 60s, architect Gerrit Rietveld and his contemporaries made quite a stir in the quite village of Bergeyk, near Eindhoven. It all started when Weverij de Ploeg, a weaving mill inspired by socialist ideals and one of the leading actors in Dutch design during the postwar period, commissioned Gerrit Rietveld to design its factory.
This project for De Ploeg led to other prestigious assignments, both public facilities and private villas. Many were given to important Dutch architects like Rietveld and his peers. In the course of the 1960s, Bergeyk was transformed from a rural village to a typical suburban area where managers of companies like Philips had villas in the woods. But it was more than just a showplace for the new capitalism. Thanks to institutions like De Ploeg, Bergeyk had also become an established cultural landmark that attracted prominent designers, architects and artists.
Along with textile producer De Ploeg, the influential Dutch furniture company ’t Spectrum was also situated in Bergeyk. Spectrum’s chief designer Martin Visser – who was also one of Holland’s foremost art and design experts and collaborated with Rietveld on his house in Bergeyk – brought artists like Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Anselm Kiefer to the village for varying lengths of time.
But everything comes to an end, and in the economic crisis of the 1980s, it became punishingly expensive to run a manufacturing company in the Netherlands. Both De Ploeg and ‘t Spectrum had found themselves struggling to survive. About five years ago, De Ploeg closed the doors of its Rietveld factory once and for all, and since then a great deal of thought has gone into creating a new cultural identity for this landmark building.
As you can imagine, the house was in need of thorough renovation, and for the past ten months, alongside all our other projects, Studio Job has been in the construction business. We have aimed to maintain the character and authentic design of the property and to restore it to its original glory according to today’s standards. We are supporters of reusing and recycling rather than demolishing, for not only ecological but also cultural reasons.
Even though its original purpose has faded, the distinctive architecture of Bergeyk still reflects the glory days of Dutch functionalism or, if you prefer, post-war modernism. Last year Studio Job bought one of the local suburban villas, in a quiet spot surrounded by an acre of forest. The property actually has its own 200-meter sandy access road, a quite exceptional feature in the Netherlands.
The house was commissioned in 1958 by mr. Kruip who was the director of a cigar manufacturing company called Royal Agio Cigars. Kruip invited one of Rietveld’s pupils, the architect D.L. Sterenberg, to design a functional and modern villa for him, his wife and their children. Sterenberg, strongly influenced by his master, designed this characteristic modernist villa with a flat roof, a highly functional and cost-efficient design. The Kruip family occupied the villa from 1960 to 2009.
I am personally fascinated with time, and with the way our history evolves. The conceptual breakthroughs of an earlier period can now be what holds us back – we all recognize that. Yet they remain inspiring and visually appealing. Over the past years, collecting historic designs has been an enlightening and worthwhile activity in its own right, but now that Studio Job has purchased the villa in Bergeyk, we finally have a context in which to display this collection.
When the exhibition Reconstruction opens, for once Studio Job House will be a Gesamtkunstwerk offering the perfect synthesis of modernism and sculpturalism: the past, when design had to be functional, and the present, when design must be personal. Under one roof (and in the garden, designed by a follower of the late landscape architect Mien Ruys) we will unite contemporary designers like Piet Hein Eek, Richard Hutten and Viktor & Rolf with a selection of pieces from the Studio Job collection.
But beyond that, we have worked with iconic companies like Royal Auping, Royal Mosa and Van Besouw to furnish Studio Job House. Auping delivered the classic Auronde beds by Frans de la Haye from 1972 in the authentic colours. Mosa provided tiles by Kho Liang Ie, while Van Besouw re-editioned a 1950s carpet. Venini produced its new Tits Lamps, while Moooi added a playful note. And when we found out that Hansgrohe has an exclusive collection with Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, we asked them to supply all our taps.
Studio Job House will be an open house, a fresh platform for art and design, a House-museum where visitors can discover our fascinations, artistic creations and designs in an ideal context. The perfect place!
We are proud to announce that the iconic Dutch graphic designer Wim Crouwel has designed a beautiful work of art for the house, incorporating his typeface New Alphabet (1967). We consider this a central element of our project, like a bridge between periods, styles and generations. Joep van Lieshout created the six-metre-long outdoor sculpture Food Cart (2007). Joep’s nephew, the artist Erik van Lieshout has also contributed some important works like Buffet (2009).