Usually, lining up to store your coat and bag is the annoying yet necessary first step in a gallery visit. This is not the case at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, where the cloakroom is the first piece of art you will encounter on your visit.
The Wieki Somers Studio – comprised of Dutch natives Wieki Somers and Dylan van de Berg – are behind this new take on the gallery experience. Since 2008, her piece Merry-Go-Round Coat Rack has been an eye-catching feature of the gallery’s large foyer area. By pulling ropes, guests raise their coats to an elevated carousel construction, giving the impression that the coats are floating, ghostly apparitions of visitors past.
This piece is not a gimmick. It performs a necessary gallery function in a unique and engaging way, inviting visitors to hoist to the ceiling both their coats and their preconceptions.
Blending real-life and real-time experiences with artistic flair is nothing new for Wieki Somers. Formally trained at Design Academy Eindhoven, Somers’ approach to design is focussed on realising and extending the potential of the everyday. This approach has resonated, gathering informal and formal international acclaim. Amongst other awards, her Studio’s Merry-Go-Round was nominated for the 2009 London Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award.
Just the Ticket
Inviting retrospectives and exhibitions in the Netherlands and elsewhere, Wieki’s work highlights and challenges the objects and ideas that we take for granted. Some of her most recognisable works include Bathboat, a bathtub shaped like a rowing boat and High Tea Pot, a teapot shaped like a pig skull and accompanied by a cosy made of water-rat fur.
Part of a long-standing relationship with the Galerie Kreo in Paris, Somers’ 2010 exhibition Wieki Somers: Frozen in Time exemplifies her exploration of the meeting point between techniques, concepts, materials and stories. Inspired by photographs of ice storms that blanketed the northern Netherlands in 1987, Frozen in Time imagines what it looks like to pause time. Everyday objects such as lamps, vases and cabinets dipped in a transparent, UV hardened resin appear as if they have been dipped in an icy glaze – frozen in time. Particularly for watch enthusiasts, it is powerful to see what are usually highly functional objects rendered silent and still.
Somers’ Studio manages to capture or evoke the beauty of the everyday – the poetry of daily rituals, of mechanical movements, of natural oddities. Indeed, Wieki has said before that “design is a mirror of the times.” Just as watch designers and makers focus on facilitating a relationship between a watch and the person on whose wrist it sits, so too does Wieki’s work strengthen the connection between people and products.
Building this connection often means viewing the object from a new perspective – the focus of Somers’ 2013 exhibition Mitate at the Galerie Kreo. ‘Mitate’ is a Japanese word referring to process of viewing an object in a different way to what was originally intended. Uncovering and creating a new narrative from the hidden qualities of objects encourages fresh eyes. If the meaning of familiar objects can be rethought and rediscovered, it allows you to interact with your space in a completely new way – keeping excitement and fascination on the cards. Maybe there is something to be learnt from this the next time you look down at that all-familiar wristwatch.
Try to notice something new in the watch’s humming movement, in the shape of its hands and the dimension of its face. Taking a leaf from Somers and the Japanese concept that inspired the Mitate exhibition will help you appreciate and value what you have.
Relevantly, the topic of time was the artistic inspiration behind a more recent project by Studio Wieki Somers. Designed for a new office in the Studio’s home city of Rotterdam, Time Circles is a site-specific installation with an outward gaze. Consisting of twelve, resin-based circles that light up from east to west, the installation represents the movements of the sun and moon. One circle lights up every hour, with the easternmost circle the first to illuminate at 7am each morning – sunrise. The second light turns on an hour later and so forth. At 7pm, the cycle is repeated in the opposite direction – sunset.
Studio Wieki Somers x The Hour Glass
The Beetle Clock (pictured below), deigned and commissioned for The Hour Glass Then Now Beyond Exhibition, is another thoughtful creation from Studio Wieki Somers. The clock symbolises the ambiguous relationship humans have with nature and acts as a metaphor for the declining beetle population, the clock is ticking.
The Hour Glass “Then Now Beyond” Exhibition runs from November 24 until January 31, 2020 and is located at Malmaison by The Hour Glass (270 Orchard Rd, #01-01, Singapore 238857).
Just as a moon phase completes a quality timepiece in terms of looks and function, so too does Time Circles take inspiration from celestial bodies. The outer edge of each ring takes its colour palette from the sun, whilst the inner takes inspiration from that of the moon. Most impressively, the installation is synchronised with the lunar cycle, meaning that the circles wax and wane along with our moon. With a mutual appreciation of the power of techniques, materials, concepts and stories, watch lovers will find a lot to love in the work of Studio Wieki Somers.