There is a lot of humour in designer Jelle Mastenbroek’s work. In his Data Orchestra he swaps private details with the audience for free music. This is part 7 of a series of short interviews with designers taking part in Dutch Design Week.
Your work often has an element of humour, but strong engagement too. With the installation Data Orchestra you want people to reflect on privacy. Are you concerned about the way in which people treat their personal details?
“Humour and engagement are certainly important in my work. The combination allows me to pose critical questions, without being immediately considered as negative. This helps me to open the dialogue. To get people to think about the way in which they treat their private data for example... In general people attach importance and value to privacy. At the same time, they give away their bank and credit card details when they get something free in return. I see that as a strange paradox. That is what I want to point out to people.”
Where did the idea for this installation originate? And why have you opted for a living room setting?
“It all started with a design for a music festival. It was a one-time thing, no follow-up. So I decided to continue with the project myself and to create the installation. Data Orchestra is a cooperation with the agency OWOW.. With regard to the sound, they provided the software and electronics, I took care of the acoustic side. The decision to employ a living room refers to the private character of the design topic that I’m touching on. With help from the Creative Industries Fund I was able to present Data Orchestra during the Salone del Mobile 2016 in Milan. The installation was awarded a Milan Design Award in the category Best Technology. An unexpected, but extremely welcome crowning of the work. Offering perspective for further development.”
Visitors whip their bank cards or ID past the scanner. The system then composes the customised music. How does that work, and what data is it based on?
“The scanner can read the bank cards and credit cards, but the chips on driving licences and passports too. I don’t store the data. That’s not relevant, but in principle it could be done. Credit card details are immediately useable. In the case of ID cards things are different: the data is not freely accessible. People respond very differently to the system. Some people immediately whip their card through the scanner. Only once they’ve understood the underlying thought, do they realise what they’ve relinquished. Others refuse to take part because of privacy considerations. For me a sign that they’re already aware of the possible consequences. Once the installation has been activated, a mechanism taps a flower pot. The sound resonates, is captured and incorporated as the bass rhythm. Then all sorts of objects in the living room start to emit sounds. Through the tapping of a vase, a pen, a refrigerator, a chair, each time you hear a new composition. Completely unique, based on your personal details.”
Finally: next week Dutch
Design Week will be over. Any idea what you will be inventing, doing and making
in the coming period?
“I’m not just presenting work on the Ketelhuisplein, but also in my studio in Sectie-C. There are mirrors hanging there that could stimulate you to think about the added value of material matters for your self-image. After DDW mostly I’ll be recovering. I’ve been running since Milan. I’ve been able to make a lot of new work in the form of commissions, including a new variation of my Vending Machine with kristalofoon for the ING bank. And of course the preparation for DDW uses up a lot of time. I doubt I’ll have much time to rest; fortunately there are new commissions in the pipeline.
‘The making of’ is the theme for the 15th Dutch Design Week. The anniversary year is an ode to the making process and the makers. Guests of honour are 2500 designers who made the event bigger, and the world just that little bit better, smarter, handier or more beautiful. For 9 whole days in Eindhoven they show their latest work and the best of what design has to offer.