(photo credit: ANTON CORBIJN)
For Maarten Baas, a life in design isn’t about fame and fortune, it isn’t about grandiose structures or glitz – rather it is about carving out a path that is authentic, necessary and true. At 40 years of age, Baas has conquered many Everests in his field and has challenged the conception of what a modern designer is. His experiments have ranged from voyages into the fields of furniture design to performance and video.
“I enjoy the variety,” he said lightly in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post Billboard. This week, Baas’s first-ever exhibition in Israel opened at the Design Museum Holon. “Hide & Seek” is the first overview of Baas’ previous works and was originally presented at the Groninger Museum in Groningen, Holland.
Baas began tampering with design as a young child. In fact, he recalled that his first piece was a refurbishment of a stool.
“When I was 7, I customized a stool, so I could use it as a bedside cabinet. I consider that my first design.” He added that this piece vanished during one of his family’s moves over the years.
Where many acclaimed designers find a niche and stick to it, Baas cannot be kept in any category of cache. His work constantly tests boundaries of media, often raising the question, “Is it art or design?” Baas’s answer to this is that it doesn’t really matter what headline his work falls under so long as he believes in it.
“I think I’m an artist who expresses himself by mostly functional objects,” he explained. “I see myself as the target group, and therefore the audience as being quite similar to myself, but I still see that I have to communicate with the audience, just like a theater actor who’s interacting with his audience. I always try to do things that make me feel I could waste everything I got. If a career strategist were to say, ‘Maarten, this is the worst plan,’ it would motivate me to actually do it. Like making an iPhone app of the clocks that are sold for thousands of Euros or going to the Milan fair with a circus show. Often also spending all my money in it.
“I always thought, ‘This could be my final showdown and after this, it’s all done.’ That excitement keeps me alive. Comparable to the mountain climber who likes to hang cliffs. I have gotten the most thrills from those things. The most recent example was for Dutch TV. The most popular TV show invited me, but I thought the question they asked me for was so ridiculous, that I made a campaign around it to make fun of the shameless attitude of the show. They most likely will never invite me again, but I enjoyed this approach and I thought I was right in what I did.”
Baas’ humor and willingness to perforate his comfort zone has allowed him to make some bold and stand-alone designs
. One notable example is Baas’ graduation project from the Eindhoven Design Academy, in which he burned furniture and then reconstructed it using epoxy resin. Titled “Smoke,” the series placed Baas on the international art map and opened many doors for the young designer. In 2009, Baas became the youngest designer to win the Designer of the Year Award at Design Miami, an influential forum for international design.
Though Baas has never presented work in Israel, this will be his second time in the country and will undoubtedly bring back memories of the first.
“The only time I’ve been in Israel was very special. When my father knew he didn’t have long to live, he said he’d like to see Israel. So we went to see the country for a week,” he said. ‘Hide & Seek’ will be on exhibit at the Design Museum Holon from November 27 through April 2. For more information, visit www.dmh.org.il.
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