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On Saturday July 9 2016, Willem de Kooning Academy (WdKA) handed out three Research Awards to three highly talented graduates. First prize went to Jade Ruijzenaars (Lifestyle, minor New Frontiers), second prize to Ermi van Oers (Product Design, minor Sustainability) and third prize to Daisy Thijssen (Graphic Design, minor Open Design). The festive award ceremony was part of the graduation event WdKA Finals 2016.
Valuing art and design research, WdKA granted three reserach awards instead of just one starting this year. The winners were selected according to the following criteria: originality, criticality, firm link between theory and practice, accuracy, clarity, craft and storytelling.
Next to the prize money of € 500, € 1,000 and € 1,500 respectively, winning projects will also be honoured with a publication by WdKA. This publication is not a conventional research book or catalogue, but an experimental publication to be developed within WdKA’s Hybrid Publishing Practices. It can take any form that is best suited to each project: electronic and print, performative, presentational. Next to the bachelors, there will also be, for the first time, a Research Award for a graduation project from one of WdKA’s five Masters programs. This award will be handed out in the fall of 2016.
First Prize: Jade Ruijzenaars, ‘Crangon Crangon’
In the exhibition, the smell of the project presentation immediately communicates what this project is about: shrimp. We are told the story of shrimp as an exemplary story of contemporary society, culture, ecology and globalised economy. Among others, we learn how shrimps are fished in the Netherlands, but peeled in Morocco and sent back to Europe because of lower labour costs. A giant box of thrown-away peels visualizes how shrimp is processed. The project also delves into the chemistry and biology of shrimp peels and the valuable substances that can be derived from them. It includes practical design research of using shrimp waste for novel ceramic glazing. Theoretical research, material research and product research have form a highly convincing whole. The story of the shrimp couldn’t be told better. The presentation is multi-layered, carefully constructed and critically engages all senses. This is truly original, critical, excellently crafted design research. The jury unanimously and wholeheartedly grants the first prize to Jade Ruijzenaars.
Second Prize: Ermi van Oers, ‘Microbial Energy’
This project is about the potential of plants generating energy – green electricity in the most literal sense of the word. Microbial energy is a popular research subject in contemporary bio and life sciences. This project takes it out of the laboratory and translates it into a functional object, a lamp powered by plants. This project was carried out in a very careful and precise way, continually feeding back research findings into design and vice versa in an iterative process. While the subject matter will need further research, and includes many outstanding issues regarding the real-life usability of microbial energy, this project resulted in a convincing presentation with a functioning prototype and video and text that clearly explain the underlying fundamental concepts. The presentation speaks for itself and will surely attract wider audiences.
Third Prize: Daisy Thijssen, ‘Meat Market’
This project raises awareness for meat that isn’t obtained from conventionally slaughtered animals, but from other sources like ‘road kills’ and the geese shot around Schiphol Airport. The project has a provocative subject and visual language. Its approach is unconventional. While the bachelor thesis mostly summarizes known facts on meat production, Daisy Thijssen found novel and effective approaches to confront wider audiences with her research issues, including public ‘Meat Up’-events and printing images on sausages and other processed meat products. Instead of aesthetically covering up the fact that meat is dead animals, like supermarkets do, her design methods confront people with the truth on meat in quirky and idiosyncratic ways, yet without any moralism, thus turning the repulsiveness of dead meat into a positive value. The project is speculative, and sometimes even surreal, and provides beautiful opportunities to be published in experimental ways.
photography: Sofie van Esch