barcelona design week

Robot Predators and Bioluminescent Jackets: A Look into Barcelona Design Week

Barcelona Design Week is a keystone part of the art world. On the website you can find endless workshops, classes, and upcoming exhibitions to attend. While reading through, one show caught my eye.

Manifestations: Natures and Worlds exhibition, located in the Materfad Materials Centre in Disseny Hub, is open from June 10th to July 31st. This exhibition displays four artists and designers who incorporate bio-art and biotechnologies into their designs. The collection is based on a festival that had the same goal- to enlighten the audience about technology’s role in our future and the future of design in general.

How do science and art interact? How can the natural world be incorporated into clothing design, and how does this tie into sustainability? This exhibition displays how nature and design can play on one another to create intriguing statement pieces. The four artists are Tim Dekkers, Maartje, Danielle Ooms, and Jip van Leeuwenstein.

Not everything is what it seems

When I first walked into the exhibition, my eye was directly caught by Maartje’s TranSwarm Entities design. What appears to be an eye-catching black lace dress on a mannequin is, in reality, a collaboration couture piece by designer Maartje Dijkstra and music producer Newk. The sculpture is made from dozens of small details that are 3D printed and sewn together with polyester wires. However, the design’s most technological part is camouflaged. Four small drones blend into the dress. These drones elevate the shape of the design to appear as though sections are flying away. The drones fly on Newk’s melodies and create a “swarm”. When one looks closer, a black dress becomes a sculpture incorporating drones, 3D printing, and music. This design perfectly encapsulates the “not everything is what it seems” concept in art.

Another aesthetically exciting piece was the “Parasitic community”, which included two garments ( a skirt and top) made of abstract cell-like circular patterns. The pieces’ fabric is frosted over with crystals in some places. The garments display human control over our soundings as the crusted fabric mimics human excess and influence.

My favorite piece was the glowing Bioluminescent Algae Jacket, made from a clear material and bioluminescent algae. Bioluminescence is light created by living sea organisms such as bacteria. The jacket emits light when in movement, displaying a relationship between the human wearing the design and the algae living and glowing inside it. In a way, the jacket represents a symbiosis between organisms.

The last project, “A Diverse Monoculture”, is probably the most shocking and explores the future between humankind and our environment. It shows how we can use modern science to make changes in specific populations. This piece is a group of robots creating a new “predator” group. The first robot, Dionea Mechanica Muscipula, was designed to consume and reduce the plague of oak processionary moths. Since the moths are attracted to light, the robot lures them in with a light positioned in its mouth. The moths are then pushed into the robot’s stomach, where micro fuel cells power the robot and allow it to “digest” them. If you had told me about this robot a year ago, I would assume it was a futuristic design, but here it is, in a Barcelona design week art gallery. 

Overall, Nature and Worlds is an incredibly unique display of art, technology, and the natural world. These designs are not just for aesthetic pleasure but take the next step in implementing action and change. Whether it’s robots that can potentially protect endangered species or clothing that glows in the dark, Nature and Worlds is an unmissable opportunity to see where the future of art, technology, and our world is heading. 

By Kathryn Dorfman

About the author

My name is Kathryn Dorfman, and I am a rising junior at the University of Michigan, double majoring in Creative Writing and Psychology. I am studying abroad in Barcelona for 8 weeks and am so grateful to have the opportunity to write for Frikifish. As the granddaughter of two artists, I learned to draw before I learned to walk, and can not wait to experience all the art Barcelona has to offer. In my free time I enjoy singing, painting, and reading. I look forward to writing and hope you enjoy my discoveries!

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