by Shraddha NairAug 20, 2020
Studio Drift is an interdisciplinary art and design studio based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Their team is made up of 64 creative minds, spearheaded by the group’s founders, Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta. They founded Drift in 2007, and have since been crafting visually and conceptually profound artworks in the form of installation, performance and sculpture. Studio Drift brings together art with design acuity and technological prowess in a fluid combination. Their work is experiential, experimental and ephemeral in nature. One of their works is currently on view at The Shed in New York City, in collaboration with Superblue. The exhibition titled DRIFT: Fragile Future was inaugurated on September 29 and will be on view until December 19, 2021.
The last time I had the good fortune of speaking with the Drift team was for a collaborative project of theirs which constructed a kinetic sculpture titled Ego for a Dutch opera titled L’Orfeo. This time we discuss their recent works - Drifter, Fragile Future, and Franchise Freedom.
The duo discusses with us one of their recent works, Drifter. The installation first caught my eye because of its bland and seemingly meaningless form. However, the work actually embodies multitudes in its nothingness, representing a singular, basic unit of urban landscapes - a concrete block.
The artists tell us more, “The rectangular concrete block is our work Drifter. The block represents a basic building unit, one especially present in the urban environment of New York City. Our exhibition, Fragile Future, culminates with this floating monolith. Audiences will first see some multichannel projected films, in which the Drifter floats through New York City and imagined environments, passing through a dystopian urban setting as well as nature to find their origin and destination. Drifter embodies the universal search for unity, origin, and destination. After seeing these projected films, the experience transitions from a virtual one to a real one, as the next installation room will show our work Drifter, a giant concrete monolith, floating around in hopeful levitation”.
They continue to describe the work based around this concept, “On select dates of the exhibition, the sole Drifter is joined by other floating monoliths to fill the McCourt space, The Shed’s four-story-high, seventeen thousand square foot event space. The Drifters will float around in an ethereal atmosphere to form a choreographed surreal immersive performance. With this performance, we invite the audience to think about the makeup this world is made of and offer an imagination of an alternative future,” they conclude.
Drifter is a representation of a narrative without context, adaptable to any storyline. It allows for playfulness in its juxtaposition. Although the work is conceptually engaging, the superficial perception of the work can leave the viewer rather blank, in a way that is almost overwhelming.
Fragile Future is an installation which brings together art and nature, with a design concept which employs light as a medium. The artists share, “Fragile Future fuses nature and technology into a multidisciplinary light sculpture. Aptly named, this work can be seen as a utopian vision of our planet’s future. Two completely opposite evolutions, nature and technology, make a pact to survive…”
The installation merges not only concept but also aesthetics of fragility (of the dandelions) versus strength (of the frames), and transience and permanence. The work signifies the consumerist, ‘fast’ culture of our commercial economies, the ephemeral yet lasting character of nature, contrasted by the permanent and wasteful nature of man-made waste.
They continue to discuss saying, “We synthesise the evolution of nature with the juxtaposed rapid evolution of technical developments in our age. Fragile Future is about conveying emotion through the symbolic ingredient of light; light that forms the basis of all life.
We handpick real dandelion seeds and glue them to LED lights individually, which are then placed in bronze circuit boards that we designed specifically for Fragile Future. Handpicking and gluing real dandelions makes for an extremely labour-intensive construction process. The dandelions are extremely fragile so we have to be extremely precise and careful in this process. By using such a labour-intensive process, we make a statement against mass production and throwaway culture.”
Franchise Freedom is a recent work by Studio Drift, based on an older project. The research started in 2007 with the launch of their work Flylight, whereby non-pre-programmed flight patterns were generated by an algorithm that reacts in ways similar to starling murmuration. In Franchise Freedom, the artists closely study the movement and flow of starlings, programming it into the software which drives the performative aspect of the work. The specially developed software brings together light and movement into a uniquely fantastic visual spectacle. The installation was recently exhibited at Burning Man, a music festival. At the last event, Drift’s work took the place of the traditional method of celebration at the festival - burning of a sculpture. This environmentally harmful activity is well substituted by non-intrusive light-based installations.