Evaluating the work done through light and motion at Studio Drift by Dutch design partners.
The Dutch design partners, Lonneke Gordjin and Ralph Nauta have made a name for themselves and for Studio Drift, following the whimsy of the natural world to meticulous artistic conclusions. Their work often features light or motion, elements they use to infuse their projects with life. “To us, light adds an extra layer and you can also play with emotion when you work with light,” Gordjin says, “with movement and with light you can bring character to an object.”
Ongoing projects such as their dandelion lights have been installed in high-end boutiques and museums around the world. Studio Drift co-founder Gordjin says she drew inspiration from her childhood spent observing changing seasons during her bike rides to school across the Dutch countryside. “I was really zooming into all these little plants and I was always looking up what plant is what.” She says dandelions were particularly special: “I used to have a rabbit and it was the first plant I could feed to my rabbit.” Fast forward a few decades and Gordjin encountered Nauta at design school in Holland. While he also grew up in the forest, Gordjin says he was entertained, not by the natural but the supernatural — he loved science fiction. Their work may be seen as a partnership between technological fantasy worlds and nature. However, in order to approach the natural perfection to which they aspire, they devote meticulous attention to detail. “In art, there’s not really as much focus on execution but for us it’s very important,” says Gordjin, differentiating her work from that of traditional artists, who often revel in accidental discoveries emphasizing that Studio Drift focuses on precision.
For their work “Shylight,” where lamps covered with parachute fabric rose and fell, collecting air and appearing like glowing jellyfish, Gordjin says she and her partner had to communicate with engineers to get the lamps to ascend and descend at different times and at different paces in order to accomplish a particular vision. For their project “Flylight,” the duo had lamps illuminated to mimic the flight patterns of birds.
In addition to focusing purely on nature, Studio Drift uses their work to bring attention to pressing environmental issues including waste disposal and renewable energy. Their most recent work, “The Obsidian Project: Revaluation” uses synthetic obsidian made from chemical waste to form a sculptural black mirror in which viewers can reflect. “The mirrors are symbolic of the potential of the meeting between technology and creative thinking to produce a solution to the world’s problems. As we look into their sensuous curves, the face of our own chemical responsibility reflects back to us,” reads the artist’s statement. Another work, “Oillight” was created to draw attention to the Earth’s rapidly shrinking oil resources and the impact lack of oil will have on our daily lives in the future. “Few people realize that not only electricity and gasoline but also oil-based plastics such as nylon are directly connected to the oil price,” according to the artists’ statement. Using a 3-D printer, Studio Drift generated miniature oil barrel shapes. “The price of the object, which is shaped like a cluster of little oil drums, is fixed. Its size, however, is relative: it depends on the current price of petrol that is needed for its production,” according to the artists. As the price of oil rises, the size of the piece is reduced.
However, the heart of Studio Drift may lie in their “Ghost Collection.” In the collection they explore a classic philosophical question: can objects possess an inner life? Is a chair; just a chair and nothing more? What results is a collection of translucent furniture imbued with visible skeletons — what one might fantasize seeing if a chair were X-Rayed in some science fiction realm. “We look for what is possible in the future, but we don’t want it to be cold hard aggressive or scary, we want it to be very close to us,” says Gordjin. “We don’t want to be better than nature, because that’s just not possible.” For Studio Drift, the best work is made when exploring the struggle between nature and technology, and when the struggle is over, harmonization between the two elements creates the work.