Jing He

The famous Flower Pyramid, part of the Rijksmuseum’s archive, seems to be a seventeenth-century Dutch invention. However, its form refers to the Chinese pagoda and its motifs derive from those on Chinese porcelain. For her graduation in 2016, Jing He undertook a very personal and intensive research to figure out how she, as a young Chinese designer, had been shaped by various influences. The journey led to surprising insights, an informative booklet, and designs with many layers of meanings. Jing He: “I began this project to continue the process of replicating and transforming which is the history of the original Tulip Pyramid. I wanted to explore the question of ‘creativity in copying’ and the question of identity. If a Tulip Pyramid were to be imitated nowadays in China – a country which is a mixture of common and private ownership, of collectivism and individualism, troubled by the issue of counterfeiting and appropriating intellectual property – what would the result be?”

Jing He invited three young Chinese designers, one artist, and one craftsman to reflect on their shared Chinese culture and the history of imitation and innovation. Each of them designed two layers of the new pyramid, all executed in different techniques from traditional crafts to high tech media. Together they claim ownership of the final product, as can be seen on iPhone in the top, which shows all the collaborators. “I see myself as a Tulip Pyramid. My origins are in China and I’ve been transformed in the Netherlands into the person I currently am. My education in the Netherlands (first at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, subsequently at Design Academy Eindhoven) gave me a new perspective on design. I used my personal experience to ask questions about mass-production and embedded it in a design discourse on originality, authenticity, and copying. For a second pyramid, I imitated and made a collage of references of famous Dutch designers’ iconic works, which I merged with my own former works. Thus I could question the influence of these designers and the educational institutions which have formed me into who I am today. On the top a 3D print of my head claims personal authorship.”

Jing He’s graduation from Eindhoven’s Masters programme in Contextual Design was granted a Cum Laude and the Gijs Bakker Award 2016 (best master project of the year). For her it was the starting point of an unfinished long-term project, of which she says, ‘I expect the project might one day develop into a project fit for mass-production.’

The Tulip Pyramid was crafted after Flower pyramid, De Metaale Pot, c. 1692– c.1700, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

Tulip Pyramid was a collaboration with:Rongkai He  贺荣凯,Cheng Guo 郭城 , Weiyi Li 李维伊, Dangdang Xing  邢当当 , Dawei Yang  杨大威 

See links to some of the articles that were written about the project: Link 1 / Link 2

Graduation project, 2016

Other images: some of the works Jing He created since her graduation in 2016.


In January 2017, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte wrote an open letter to the public where he urges immigrants to either behave normally, or leave the country. This struck a chord with Chinese artist Jing He who, as an immigrant, spent a part of her adult life in the Netherlands and continues to work and live in Eindhoven. In this work, the artist used the Ikea doormat carrying the word ‘Welkom’ (welcome) and altered it into ‘Normaal’ (normal). ‘Normal’ is written in a strangely slanted font that directly contradicts its meaning through its unusual form. This not only makes us question the meaning of words, but also show their arbitrariness. The usual Dutch hospitality has become dependent on the person’s behaviour and is therefore not unconditional.


Jing He realized a large installation called Live Streaming for the exhibition ‘GEO–DESIGN: ALIBABA. FROM HERE TO YOUR HOME’, at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (curated by Joseph Grima and Martina Muzi in October 2018). The various elements of Jing He’s project represent a known phenomenon which dominates the more than 200 social media platforms in China. The designer examined the organisational structure and e-commerce marketing strategies behind this online industry. Through case studies, she focused on how live streaming is used as an interactive medium for advertising, promoting and selling products, as well as how it has been combined with other e-commerce tools. At the opening event on 20 and 21 October 2018, Erbi Chen and Qiong Ye Chuan ZiJI - two live-streaming hosts from China - had a temporary studio at the Van Abbemuseum.


Jing He is interested in phenomena such as cultural translation, appropriation and hybridisation. Her key fascination is the ”copying through culture“, as she calls it. Instead of focusing on the usual notion of authenticity, Jing He is intrigued by the coexistence of various versions and their respective local adaptations. In Attachments – Arch and Tongue, the designer / artist examines two such instances of cultural appropriation. In her home town Kunming in China there is a new office building in a shape reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe (1836) in Paris. However, far from being an imitation, the materials and most importantly the shape have been adapted to be more economical and functional by using steel and glass and fashioning it square-cut. Furthermore, in front of this square arch there is a colourful balloon dog, which varies from Jeff Koons’ original through its colourfulness and added tongue. In her installation, Jing He superimposes an arch over an imitation of the new building’s façade and thus restores the curved shape of the original. On top of her arch there is an arrangement of photographs and objects, with two selfies of the artist at the arch in China, details of the Arc de Triomphe’s relief and the miniature of the balloon dog’s tongue.

Since her graduation from Contextual Design in 2016, Jing He’s work was shown at various prestigious institutes, including Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Museum Princessehof Leeuwarden, Flux Factory New York, Artgallery Roehrs & Boetsch Zurich, Zuiderzeemuseum Enkhuizen, Frans Halsmuseum Haarlem, Vitra Design Museum Weil am Rhein.





read thesis ↓

read thesis ↓

The Tulip Pyramid
Copy and Identity (2016) was originally written as a thesis report for a research project concerning copying and cultural identity, and accompanied the design project Tulip Pyramid. Both the design project and the thesis were part of Jing He's graduation from Contextual Design (MA) at Design Academy Eindhoven in 2016.

Jing He: Tulip Pyramid – Copy and Identity, Design Academy Eindhoven, 82 pag., 15 euro
To order her book, please send an email to books@designacademy.nl


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