As opposed to many of my peers at Industrial Design, I do not attach much value to the functionality of designed objects, because in the end I don’t think the project of Life is about efficiency or convenience. It is about our ability to experience and explore the many qualities our world is rich. To pursue more efficient means of existing, of getting from A to B, of foraging food, of building a shelter, is to delude yourself that there is some kind of purpose to life. But there isn’t and that is not a bad thing, in fact the purposeless nature of life should be a source of freedom to follow your curiosities, desires and ambitions and to be inspired by the happy coincidences that are all abound. I don’t mean to say that technology has no merit; I am happy to be alive in a time with health-care, a strongly established legal system and ubiquitous literature and art, but I think it is limiting and superficial to say that making life easier is akin to making it better. Today there might be far less physical human suffering than, for example, in the middle ages, but at the same time it is an irrevocable fact that an increasing amount of individuals today suffer psychologically from depression, burn-outs, societal pressure, etcetera.
“The human enterprise is no longer about physical needs, but about psychological needs, which ironically require suffering to develop properly”
At this moment in time we have reached a state of welfare and technological prosperity that allow most human beings to meet their basic needs and, as such, the human enterprise is no longer about physical needs, but about psychological needs, which ironically require suffering to develop properly. In former, pre-information age, times simply surviving was an effortful task and quite an extraordinary feat to pull-off, which, I think, was an important source for each individual to draw strength from. Nowadays, on the other hand, one’s prolonged existence is normalised and supported by all kinds of external, institutional, powers, often leading to an existential identity crisis when reaching adulthood. Something I experienced myself two years back. To suffer and to overcome suffering are necessary for each individual to have a sense of meaning and to live happily.
“It is through the latter [progressive suffering] that one builds character and becomes empowered to cope with the existential fears that are a natural part of life and through the latter human culture advances”
Yet there are two types of suffering, destructive suffering – like waging wars, racism, sexism, etcetera, which are always on the expense of someone – and progressive suffering, which is the result of failing a certain endeavour that builds on top of existing sociocultural structures. It is through the latter that one builds character and becomes empowered to cope with the existential fears that are a natural part of life and through the latter human culture advances.
My personal endeavours are aimed at opening up a space for people to escape the immediacy and self-evidence of everyday life, by means of artefacts that play with their context. As, for example, the Unidentified Rolling Object did in Amsterdam six weeks ago.