Aug 5, 2009

Still TalkingDesign: Nederlandse Stijl II

Praten Over Ontwerp, Part 2

More insight from our friends at the Willem de Kooning Academy (WDKA)


The Academy has just launched the Cultural Diversity minor, in collaboration with students from the Department of Cultural & Social Studies (CMV) at Rotterdam University.

Research for the Project is commissioned by a partner from the City of Rotterdam. This season’s partner was the Historisch Museum Rotterdam (HMR), initiator of the Roffa 5314 project, named after Rotterdam South, zip code 5314. The current focus is on Dutch youth’s life-style, i.e, clothing, style, language… and publicity about events organised by HMR.

Many thanks to Mark Mulder, Programme Coordinator, for facilitating these interviews.

Praten over ontwerp 2 features 4 more collaborators:

Danny van Dijk = DVD
Roshnie Ajodhia = RAJ
Coen van der Steen = CDVS
Susan Jansen = SJA

AIGA XCD: What is your name? Where were you born and what neighbourhood did you grow up in? Where were your parents born? Why did you participate in HMR-Roffa 5314 project?

DVD: Danny van Dijk, born in Rotterdam. Raised in Rotterdam, Zwijndrecht and Spijkenisse. My parents are from Hoogvliet and Den Haag. I like this project, because I like doing field research with different target groups and nationalities. I’ve lived in Rotterdam South and I really love the neighbourhoods.

RAJ: Roshnie Ajodhia, born in Paramaribo, Suriname, just like my parents. I came to the Netherlands when I was 3 and moved to Rotterdam South at 19. It used to be a nice neighbourhood, but the crime rate has soared. My training as an educator makes me feel connected with the youth in South Rotterdam.

CDVS: Coen van der Steen. I was born in Dordrecht in a pretty wealthy neighbourhood called Dubbeldam which was extremely dull in my opinion: not much going on. My Mom was born in Amsterdam and Dad in Hoogvliet. I joined the Schielandhuis project to investigate my surroundings; try to understand and learn from them.

SJA: Susan Jansen, born in Breda and raised in a nice, family-oriented neighbourhood with lots of other children to play with. My parents where born in Dongen.

AIGA XCD: Which description of today’s changing world makes most sense to you? Which one best describes your personal experience and why? (choose one of the 3 below)

a. multiculturalism (that means you experience different cultures as distinct and separate)
b. crossculturalism (this means that you experience different cultures, some changing the other, you tend to pick a little bit of this and a little bit of that)
c. globalism (this means you feel that all the cultures are melting into one style, and everyone’s pretty much looking the same, inspired by the same things)

DVD: I am very mixed, because I grew up with different cultures. From every culture I pick a little bit. When I do this my lifestyle is mixed with positive elements from different cultures.

RAJ: ‘Crossculturalism’, I think everyone influences the other, and there are similarities, too. Different cultures are mixing up, and it doesn’t matter anymore what your ethnicity is. You can pick and choose, express yourself but still keep your identity.

CVDS: In densely populated environments, like cities, people have to interact with each other. The result of this is a lot of give and take, and inevitably exchange and influence. The influence could be abstract; for instance food. Cultures seem to mix but not entirely…most people are more influenced by one way of living than, for instance, an entire foreign culture. Therefore, my answer is crossculturalism.

SJA: Globalism makes the most sense to me this is my experience in Rotterdam.

AIGA XCD: What music are you listening to these days? Which movie or TV show has impressed you the most in the last 12 months? Any Dutch movies or shows? If not, why?

DVD: I listen to all kinds of music. Every day I listen to Slam FM (dance radio) and Fun X (multicultural radio). These are my favorite radio stations. When I was a little child, I listened a lot to Spanish, Italian and French music. Now, I love music from around the world, e.g, Zouk (in French or Portuguese), it’s a mix between Latin, Merenge and Bachata. I also like 90’s music. I don’t like movies nor TV, I don’t have time or patience enough.

CVDS: A lot of stuff from traditional folk music, hiphop, to jazz, electronica and world music. I don’t have a televison, but if I did, I’d watch talent shows, not for the entertainment value but to observe how a REALLY big group of people avidly pursue fame and wealth in fulfillment of a life-long dream. I’m kind of worried about that and what it says about modern society and our way of thinking.

SJA: Lately, it’s been Brazilian music: I was there for an internship and the music brings back a lot of nice memories. The movie that impressed me the most in the last 12 months was The Diary of Anne Frank. It’s not a Dutch movie, but it’s about Dutch people.

AIGA XCD: Which cultures do you think about most when you are designing or creating art? Why do you reference these cultures? Do you feel they represent or inspire you more than other cultures?

DVD: I work as a photographer and I have fun shooting people from Surinam, Cape Verde or the Caribbean, because I find them photogenic without being self-conscious. They are very open, self-confident, social and nice to work with.

RAJ: I think a lot about youth culture, this is a new generation and very inspiring: they don’t own any particular ethnicity/group and there’s a lot of cross-cultural exchange. I find comparing different cultures very interesting.

CVDS: My sources of inspiration are mixed, but I think I am heavily influenced by the American culture. Not that American culture’s more inspiring, it’s just that as dominant culture, it’s an easy, common reference point, a useful and efficient vehicle for getting ideas across.

SJA: At the moment I’m the most inspired by Brazilian culture: I did a 3-month internship there.

AIGA XCD: What does the Dutch visual language feel like? Do you use it a lot in your work? If not, why? Do you feel like your cultural values are well-reflected in your neighbourhood? Do you have any ideas why?

DVD: There is a notion of Rotterdam “etiquette”, for example, in the public transport. If you are from Rotterdam you exactly know how you have to behave. I’ve got family in the North of Holland and I think there is also an “etiquette” that shapes how people live together. I’m sure they have own visual language too.

RAJ: I do use a lot Dutch visual language, because I enjoy using Dutch metaphors. I’m confident my audience understands my work.

CVDS: I wonder if there is such a thing as a Dutch visual language…the Netherlands is part of a bigger world, which means other cultures certainly affect on our visual language. I’m not sure we have anything so distinct.

SJA: I think my cultural values are well reflected in my neighbourhood because I feel comfortable and safe, and that’s what’s important for me.

AIGA XCD: Do you think this programme will help you develop a “Dutch style”? Or should you be free to develop whatever style you want? What was the most important thing you discovered during Het Schielandhuis-Roffa 5314 project?

DVD: I’d prefer to develop a style I like, really. I discovered nice places to eat out in Rotterdam South. In terms of discovery, I’ve confirmed what I expected to find, tremendous diversity.

RAJ: I think unlimited, creative freedom is most important, without the restrictions of “style”. I discovered a lot about the neighborhood I visited, and have come to appreciate that the youth isn’t that bad as the media says… Of course there is a “bad element”, but I feel this is a minority. I also discovered how much people love their neighborhood, which is actually economically self-sufficient.

SJA: I discovered that not all youth in Rotterdam Zuid is violent and that they have lot of aspirations for their future.

AIGA XCD: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Do you think your Design style will be the same?

DVD: In about five years I will have my own photo company. I’m aspiring to work with friendly, talented people, naturally from different backgrounds with diverse perspectives.

RAJ: I don’t know where I will end 5 years from now. I’m definitely sure that my design style won’t be the same, because I’m changing and learning every day. This fact influences my work heavily.

CVDS: Well hopefully, I’ll have a steady job and place to live. It would be cool to do art on the side too, and have my own gallery. But who knows, I might end up at the local supermarket filling shelves. I’m pretty sure, however, that my style will not be the same: it never has been, it evolves in one way or another, and that goes for everyone, doesn’t it?

Photo credits: Vincent Drekker.

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