Erez Nevi Pana
Various graduates of Contextual Design continued as design researchers, theorists, and curators, sometimes alongside their continued design practices, sometimes as scientific researchers within the expanded field of design, sometimes as curators for art and design institutes. Below we mention some of the former students who engaged in a scientific PhD research.
For his 2014 thesis project, Erez Nevi Pana focused on what he called ‘the recrystallization of salt’. “While crossing the Negev desert (Israel) with my car, when the temperature outside reached 50 degrees, among the brown dunes, I saw a white, sparkling, 16-meter-high mountain of glossy, pure, petite diamonds, neglected in the desert. It struck me like a storm in the clearest summer morning of July, like most unexplained phenomena written in the pages of our history: there stood a mountain of pure salt in the middle of the Negev desert.” Salt, which in the past was seen as valuable ‘white gold’ and contains many references, has become waste material. At that point Nevi Pana decided to give the material a next life, remembering the words of Donald Sadoway, professor of material chemistry at MIT, on the abundance of natural resources: "If you want to do something dirt-cheap make it out of dirt, preferably dirt that it is locally sourced".
Ever since, salt and other waste materials have become a powerful source of inspiration for him. He conducted experiments and investigated ways of changing salt’s properties, such as turning it so dense that it starts to resemble white marble. For his graduation project he produced a series of building blocks and tiles. For a more recent project, the Bleached series, he submerged wooden structures into the Dead Sea — leaving them to crystallize like coral formations.
Besides working on his own design projects, Erez Nevi Pana works as a curator (La Terrasse) and a PhD research on ‘vegan design’ at the University of Art and Design Linz, in Austria. The research will lead to more theoretical insight into what ‘vegan design’ might entail and into the creation of alternatives for current production, for instance by producing 100% sustainable and ethically sound designs, made of materials we now consider ‘waste’. “As a vegan and a designer, I first started wondering about the possibilities of veganizing my surroundings and the world — I questioned my diet, I questioned my clothing and later, I questioned my profession. What is the potential of design research and development? How can it influence and reposition material consumption? As a designer, it's my duty to look critically at modern society, to make assessments, point to problems and offer personal or professional solutions and interpretations. A way out.“
Giovanni Innella graduated in 2008 with a conceptual project in which he critically investigated design’s presence in the media. His graduation was evaluated with a ‘cum laude’ and consisted of a thesis and a range of seemingly familiar objects that evoked questions on their status and materiality. After his graduation he continued to work as a designer and a curator. His works were exhibited at Droog Design in Amsterdam, the NaiM (national architecture institute) in Maastricht, the International Design Biennale of Saint-Etienne, the Fuorisalone of Milan and the Van Abbe Museum of Eindhoven. Giovanni’s jewellery piece Yours (2010), for the brand CHP...?, is part of the permanent collection of the Stedelijk Museum of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. With Agata Jaworska, who also graduated from Contextual Design, Innella initiated the Institute of Relevant Studies, a network that collaborates with other Institutes on demand. Currently, Giovanni is an Assistant Professor at Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology (Tokyo Metropolitan University), and a visiting lecturer at Chiba University.
Joana Meroz finalised her study at Design Academy Eindhoven in 2009 with an impressive theoretical research into the meaning and perception of design, and a design project to underscore her views. She continued her studies at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, faculty of the Humanities - Design Cultures. Ever since her focus is on design theory. In 2018 she finalised her PhD research: Transnational Material Politics: Constructions of Dutch Design, 1970-2012.
“This research examines the history of the construction of the idea of Dutch Design. It advances from the premise that Dutch Design is the product of a discursive construction rather than the natural result of a 'typically Dutch' identity or culture. Accordingly, this research traces the development of ideas about Dutch Design as well as the actors involved in the production and institutionalisation of those ideas. Ultimately, the aim is to develop an empirical understanding of the actual relationships between Dutch Design and its socio-cultural contexts without relying on stereotypes of national culture and of design. The broader relevance of this study is that it contributes to the development of a theoretical-methodological framework within which the relationship between design and society can be studied scientifically. This is key to the development of the new academic field of Design studies in the Netherlands and abroad.”
Link to thesis 2009: Link 1
More links to other texts and her PhD research of 2018: Link 2
Ben Landau’s graduation project, Design in Krisis (2013) examined design’s changing role when confronted with an economic crisis that causes unemployment and changes the social fabric of a local society. His adage ‘from things to thinking’. “For my research I used the word Krisis, instead of Crisis, to indicate a removal from the mediatised culture of crisis. Designers must recognize this context, leaving design’s industrialised and capitalised history to become socially responsible. Foremost, as all design is political, designers may actively address ‘the political’ – to create situations which utilise plurality and agonism to confront choice.” In his view designers should focus on sites of krisis – isolated places where krisis has had an effect. Here they can embrace the altermodern, a word defined by Nicolas Bourriaud as the attempt at contextualizing art made in today's global context as a reaction against standardisation and commercialism. “Designers can propose alternatives. Designers can become radical political visionaries.”
Since his graduation, Ben Landau has returned to Australia, where he’s mostly engaged in design research, analysing systems and artistic methodologies “to tamper with them. I construct experiences, objects and performances which are interactive or invite the audience to participate.” Recently he has started a PhD research at the RMIT University of Melbourne, Australia.
Link to thesis project 2013: Link 1 / Link 2
Erez Nevi Pana, Recrystallizing, 2014
Erez Nevi Pana, Bleached (before dipping and after dipping), 2018