Time has proved a great ally of Mindcraft, the Danish Arts Foundation's annual flagship exhibition for Danish craft and design, organised every year during Milan Design Week.
It was therefore only natural for this new edition of the event - organised at the historic cloister of San Simpliciano (Piazza Paolo VI 6, Milan; 4th - 9th April) - to focus on time.
The theme was inspired by the historic setting for the exhibition: time plays a central role in structuring the flows and rhythms of life in San Simpliciano, but the theme perfectly relates also to our frenetic lives.
In a press release about the event curator and designer Henrik Vibskov stated: "The cloister appears as a beautiful pocket in time in a bustling city, and one senses the rhythm and atmosphere of the place, as it fluctuates with the varying light throughout the day. Moreover, time is something we use to structure our everyday life and world on many levels. From the microscopic tangible elements to the vast, unfathomable eternity – so there is plenty of room for the participants to explore. Some of them address the theme in the way a material patinates and changes in colour over time. Others have seized on the social element at a specific time of day. Like the liberating afternoon coffee-and-cake break or the point where night turns into day, expressed as a poetic physical intersection in a piece of furniture."
As highlighted by the curator, each piece interprets the concept of time in a different way: the 18 makers and designers selected were asked to focus on the rhythms and rituals of life, and at how time affects the creative process, from the drying time of a ceramic glaze to considerations about when or for how long an object will last.
Artists were also given specific time spans or time of day, slots that somehow inspired their design object: Eske Rex and Maria Mengel's "Sun Bed" is for example inspired by the sunrise; a morning slot going from around 9.00am to 1.00pm was interpreted by Japanese silversmith Yuki Ferdinandsen as a long and intense working day spent producing sterling silver containers with the Japanese Arare technique, and the time involved in the creation of an object was also reflected in the meditative installation "Time Rotations" by Kasper Friis Kjeldgaard.
The 7:00 am slot inspired instead Tobias Møhl his collection of hand-blown glass vessels made with the Venetian glassblowing techniques but incorporating abstract and intricate organic patterns, decorative textures that appear during the creation of the vases.
There is great variety as the display features functional and purposeful or merely artistic pieces, in the most disparate materials including ceramic and fabrics.
Textile artist Isabel Berglund tried for example to look at the concept of time travelling via a hand-made hybrid: part industrial machine, part traditional spinning wheel and part time machine, her "Spinning Time Machine" spins abstract time in string/yarn and it is set to make people think about time-consuming processes and the visible representation of time.
Hanne G also worked with wool, but her results were different: for "The Duet" she created a sculptural textile installation with built-in sensors that detect movement and activate an audio element, producing a "song" triggered and shaped by human curiosity. The textile objects respond as people approach, move away from and walk around them becoming two instruments producing a duet (the audio element in this installation was created in a collaboration with composer and producer Jesper Ranum).
Some of the textile-related objects can be considered also more commercial: Birk Marcus Hansen's "To Europa" series consists in flags representing not a country but a geograhical area outside Earth's atmosphere, that is smallest of Jupiter's four Galilean moons, but they can double up as scarves incorporating Europa's position in our solar system, its geographic features, name or symbolic value.
There is an emphasis in this year's Mindcraft on ceramic or clay pieces: some of them are practical, others instead are conceived as more decorative.
Among the modern and functional pieces that can be used as sculptures or tables there are Emil Krøyer & Mads Sætter-Lassen's "Plinth", incorporating a deep blue Danish granite, and "Bricks of Time" by furniture designer Maria Bruun and architect Anne Dorthe Vester, that includes ceramic elements produced on an old extrusion machine (once used to manufacture traditional building bricks), finished by hand and stacked in combination with glass sheets.
Christina Schou Christensen's "Lunch Recipes" project consists in a series of stoneware test cookie with a glaze sample based on a recipe involving three randomly selected ingredients in a ratio of 11:44:33 or 12:36:01 (the time slot the artist and designer was allocated).
The resulting cookies look like lucky accidents incorporating rather unusual materials and effects that, explored from a distance, disturbingly and surprisingly look like human skin.
Rather than experimenting with glazed surfaces, Carl Emil Jacobsen explored the potential of unique colours with his "Powder Variations" series, fibre-reinforced concrete and polystyrene pieces incorporating crushed fieldstones, tiles and bricks that allowed the artist to create bespoke powder pigments.
Honourable mentions for this year's Mindcraft go to Marianne Eriksen Scott-Hansens and Lærke Valum: the former created "Starting All Over Again" exuberant and gigantic paper flowers, a tribute to slow rhythms, late nights spent working on a project and the transitional hour between the day that finishes and the next one starting. Sponsored by Kvadrat, clothing designer Lærke Valum came up with an installation inspired by the way we break the time in our life into appointments and obligations to try and contain or control it.
Her abstract textile armours "Moments of" explore this notion of time interpreting it as a burden or a mantle of "wearable time" that weighs down the body and adorns it at the same time in a colourfully ritualistic way.
This edition of Mindcraft is maybe more based on the creative processes behind a piece than on the final products and features more installations than commercial design products.
Yet its theme proves fascinating as time has become a real luxury in our lives and we seem to desire, demand and want everything at faster rhythms, from what we eat to what we wear, without taking the time to appreciate anything. Hopefully, Mindcraft17 will encourage us to enjoy and cherish every minute of the time we have till the very end.