Piet Zwart Institute – Masters Graduation Expo

On: July 8, 2007
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About Tijmen Schep
Tijmen Schep (1981) is a Dutch theorist on new media and digital culture, focussing on wireless media and public space. This theorizing is brought to life in the NetNiet.org foundation which promotes wireless media art by creating wireless festivals, events and installations.

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A new batch of Piet Zwart master students was released into the wild yesterday. Worm(Rotterdam) hosted the temporary “invasion”, as course director Florian Cramer jokingly refered to it. The work of about 9 students, I neglected to count them precisely, was exhibited throughout the building, including the Worm office space.

I noticed that most of the works were very technical in nature. The students get a two-year crash course in programming and other technical wizardry. It’s because students shouldn’t just design with tools, they should be able to make their own, Cramer explained.

This is exemplified in Andrea Fiore’s “cookie census”, which made me think “why has nobody thought of this before”. Andrea has written a script that makes visible the cookies that are attached to (different parts of) websites. He then allows you to compare different webpages, say CNN.com, Washingtonpost.com, etc, so you can see which advertisers leave cookies scattered around which websites. This makes visible the marketing strategies these companies use. It reminds me of google’s use of recommendations, but instead of using links as such, this project sees cookies as recommendations.

Another interesting work was made by Walter Langelaar. He made a physical object, a laptop sitting on a rock, that he mirrored in Second life. If a second-life denizen ‘touched’ the virtual laptop, he or she would be “transported”/linked to a location in Google earth, namely the location of the Worm building, which was the location where the physical object was situated. The installation toyed with jumping from world to world in an infinite loop.

image from lowstandart.net

What interested me most about the work however was how he had “dumped” some second-life buildings into Google earth. Seeing a brightly coloured secondlife building lying in Google Earth made me wonder how all these virtual worlds could be connected. When you die in second life, are you reincarnated in Google Earth?

Not only were the works very technical, they were also very much centered around the internet. The exceptions were, coincidentally, made by women.

Audrey Samson, for instance, used radio to explore the more mystical and literally “untangible” side of wireless media, which scored points with me. Her work rebelled against the tabou on talking about death by doing just that, broadcasting talks about death on various radio frequencies which could then be scanned through with any ordinary FM radio.

All in all I must say I’m impressed with the technical prowess of these students. However, coming from a similar but more conceptually oriented design school myself, I was a little dissapointed in their explanations of why they did the things they did, why they made certain design choices. It seemed as though the students hadn’t had many lessons in presenting as most of them had trouble clearly formulating the core concept of their work, often focussing on the technical prowess it required. My recommendation would be to up the lessons on presenting in the curriculum. If they do that, I’ll definately check out whatever they decide to invade next year.

– A short overview of the works on offer
– Piet Zwart – media design MA

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