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Some of the rooms from my first trip in 2005

Some of the rooms from my first trip in 2005

After high school I went traveling and got addicted to the rush of getting to new places, meeting new people, sleeping in different beds, etc. I feel more alive and much sharper when in an unknown environment. Even though I went travelling as much as possible ever since, I always returned home to live only a few hundred meters from where I was born. Because of my friends, my family, my comfortable and beautiful apartment and because I wanted to study a specific course not far from there: Industrial Design at the Eindhoven University of Technology.

Looking for excitement I travelled in between the years of study as much as possible and enjoyed exchanges and internships whenever possible. After graduating last year, me and six other graduates started Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken, a collective through which we explore how we want to work through a great variety of projects. I feel this is a great way to develop myself professionally and enjoy what I do to get by. Unfortunately I can’t really afford the time and money for long trips anymore and so I plan to find the excitement of the new, still constructing something bigger collectively by giving up the basic certainty of my home.

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Zygmunt Bauman - Liquid Times

Zygmunt Bauman – Liquid Times

I believe this project is relevant to many more of my generation. As we head for a future in which social structures change at an ever faster rate, how do we find depth in the things we do? Digital nomads, Urban nomads, Technomads; our pre-settling ancestors are often used as a romanticised metaphor to describe how some of us live today. In reality however, nomads often moved because of a lack of freedom and were often too busy surviving for any innovation to take place. It wasn’t anything like the exciting and dynamic times of today.

It was the agricultural revolution that gave us more time. While some would grow crops for everyone to eat, others could educate children, build temples, or become master painters. Since we settle, we specialise. Millennia of further specialisation in our roles, our spaces and our time, brought us to where we are today. I wonder how we can continue specialisation in a future where our societies change continuously.

I’m not saying we’ll lose all science and culture if we continue like this, I’m actually quite optimistic. I am just interested in finding ways to avoid superficiality while hopping from one thing to the next. And I think the best way to do that is by reflecting on my own actions.

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This project is experimental

This project is experimental

This project is experimental. Not only the specific content will be determined on the go, it’s structure is liquid too. The volatile nature of a blog is used to document both the content and the changing approach (here, at about). There can’t be a predefined set of rules to this way of living for the simple reason that I want my actual experiences to guide it, not my preconceptions.

As a start, I’ll change home every three months or so. I expect that this is short enough to prevent myself from getting truly used to my ‘home’ yet long enough not to turn looking for a place to stay my main activity in life. Of course this is just an assumption and very open to change along the way. In much the same way I chose to start within the Netherlands because I find real contact important in the daily work I do. Again, this might change.

To provide my project with some structure I work with themes which emerge as I proceed. For instance, the first theme I encountered was stuff, for what was I to move around with? Next to stuff, other themes will come up. I’m very interested in the way relationships with my friends will be, or how I will relate to specific places, routes, rituals or laws. With each theme I’ll decide on a new structure to document and reflect on that topic.

There are many other people that live liquid in some way or another, or that explore similar topics in other ways or from other perspectives. As part of my project I’m reading about, looking at and talking to as many interesting people as possible. Their projects, lifestyles, books, etc. form the context of this project and help positioning it. On this blog I collect them under ‘reference’ next to my own ‘actions’ and ‘reflections’. I use it to document my own changing perspective and hope to spark discussion here.

So excuse me if this blog seems somewhat unclear or unstructured, I’m working on it. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, or drop a remark at any specific article.

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actual experience guides the project, not preconceptions

actual experience guides the project, not preconceptions

As an academic designer I’ve been trained to reflect on my actions. During my graduation from the Eindhoven University of Technology, I reflected on a liquid future while designing for a sea sailor on the move. Now I design and reflect based on my own actions. At Afdeling Buitengewone Zaken we are applying this ‘first person perspective’ to several other design projects and explore different ways in which it can help to design for complex, real life situations.

I believe that as humans we have rich senses, powerful tools to reflect on our experiences. I think it is both fun and relevant to try and use them to look into a possible future. I’m looking forward to encountering new needs and actively look for answers to some of the personal and societal questions that I have. While on the move I’ll be designing new ways to get my stuff around, build a home and interact with my friends based on what I need. And who knows if these products, services or reflections might be useful to others too.

I wonder where I’ll flow.

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Hunters Go Hungry

Browsing the web I came across Hunters Go Hungry. This art project is inspired by the eponymous GEM album ‘hunters go hungry’. It is the nature of musicians to feel the urge of being on the road; the idea that you need to move to avoid standstill followed by the fact that you might miss out on stuff if your life takes place on a defined location.

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arrival at my new home

arrival at my new home

Last week I moved. It wasn’t a big move for I still live within Amsterdam. I packed my stuff on my bicycle so I didn’t have to ride up and down a lot. To allow for steering, I attached two broomsticks with my clothes horse in between to the handlebar of my bicycle. At the base were two of my speakers and a few big suitcases and to top it off some smaller bags with my duvet etc. Much gaffer tape and rope were crucial to this operation, as well as the kind help of Joel. Unfortunately it started raining before we (clumsily) turned around the corner of my old street and could barely halt before a crossing we headed for racing down the bridge. We were soaked by the time we arrived at my new place, and so was literally all my stuff (happy to say that the speakers still work).

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reading lights on an angle

With a few bare pieces of furniture I’ve had a lovely home for the past three months. I had done little to make it my own place, rearranged the furniture once after a month or so. This was my comfortable seat for relaxing. Since the place was quite dark when I got there, I placed these two lamps on the wall behind my relaxing chair. It looks as if there had been a bookshelf before where the wall held four plugs, two above two others (you can still see the lower ones). The light also has two holes to hang it, but they are next to each other. Just one of the available plugs fitted the lights, hence their angle.

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In every age someone, looking at Fedora as it was, imagined a way of making it the ideal city, but while he constructed his miniature model, Fedora was already no longer the same as before, and what had been until yesterday a possible future became only a toy in a glass globe.

– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (1972)

 

Fedora seems like a Liquid city. And this quote aptly illustrates one of my main concerns with a liquid future, or challenges in my liquid life for that matter: How do we use knowledge or experiences from the past in a context which is new, different?

 

What does it mean for the way we design products, buildings, cities?

Will things ever be finished? Projects ever be over? How will craftsmen be valued that focus on process and material rather than a once desired result but require time to be timeless?

What will happen to imagination if nothing stays the same? Do we have time to dream if we struggle to understand reality? Or will these dreams only become more extreme as a result?

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The one thing I always bring on trips

Going through all the things I have forced me to reconsider their value. I did not automatically take all my most valuable belongings but building a home on the move requires a mix of practically and emotionally valued things which is difficult to define.

This rope is the only thing that I always bring on my trips. I mainly use it to hang my drying clothes, but it also served many other purposes. It held improvised curtains for months in my Stockholm apartment, helped keeping me dry during cold, rainy nights in Austrian forest and prevented my luggage from falling off a truck on a bumpy Burmese road.

It is not their economic value, nor the frequency of use, but maybe it’s about the memories that stick to objects that define their value to a great extent. And memories often come with the unusual, with improvised use. What does open functionality, or the degree of improvisation allowed by a product mean to its value? And to what extent do we need to physically understand these degrees of freedom? For instance, I have used software on my computer to digitally improvise in many cases, yet I do not feel such a strong physical relation to my laptop or the applications it carries, for that matter.

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I missed my spices

I’m still looking for a way to get a healthy diet into my new lifestyle. Since I’m working long days and have to travel quite a bit to get home afterwards, I’ve been eating at work or on the train a lot. We only have a small oven and a microwave to warm things up so dinner often comes down to some takeaway, pizza or microwave meal. When I do cook at home, I am glad to have my spices and sauces in place to turn some fresh ingredients into a decent dinner. Initially I didn’t bring my stock with me, and I was forced to buy all ingredients for each meal, decreasing complexity and diminishing improvisation.

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