The mission of the Test Zone was simple – to allow the audience to understand and familiarize with the materials: wood, paper, metal and textiles.
There were no prohibitions or limitations in the Test Zone. Our aim was to create a zone responding to the human need to interact with the objects and materials in front of us. We wanted the visitors to explore their qualities, test the potential of each of them and use them creatively to construct objects according to their own ideas. We were encouraging them to use all their senses and broaden their cognitive processes.
The exhibition demonstrated how materials – as they pass through human minds and imaginations – metamorphose into specific forms: architecture, design and artistic installations. Additionally, it also made the audience conscious that every material demands special treatment, respect when being worked, patience, consistency and a suitable amount of time.
Wood, a material closest to us, warps, shrinks, swells, rots, and deviates from straight lines. It is full of contradictions and extreme characteristics. It protects, gives shade and rest, but is also a fuel for fire, destruction and disaster. Any attempts to make light of these individual traits always means that the final effect and our intentions ends in fiasco.
We wanted our exhibition to become a playground of sort, a place where anyone can easily explore the sectrets of each of the materials.
We gathered five exceptional types of wood: pine, oak, balsa, ebony and cork. Our aim was to allow each visitor to experience these first hand, compare their weight, smell, facture or even their displacement. We’d prepared a purpose-built table comprising evenly placed vertical poles that enabled the visitors to easily bent veneer strips into diverse shapes. Right next to it, we placed a special handpress to create bricks out of wet wood chips.
Here we arranged another brickmaking station – this time one based on paper pulp. Again we’d provided the visitors with paper samples of various types and grammage and encouraged everyone to treat them anyway they like – touch them, smell them or even tear them apart. We’d also prepared an unusual experiment: using water-based markers guests could paint various patterns on carbon paper sheets, then observe as paper gradually bent into fascinating, complex 3D shapes.
Just the way we did with other materials, we’d gathered a dozen of textiles and allowed the visitors to play with them freely. We particularly recommended testing their eslasticity and comparing their structures through magnifying glass. Nearby we’d placed a macro-handloom of our own design, that enabled guests to weave together a unique, multicolored fabric.
We’d picked five popular metals: copper, brass, aluminium, carbon steel and stainless steel. Obviously, each of them could have been touched, examined and weighted. Anyone could use the bending machine to take out their anger out on the limitless supply of innocent steel rods we’d provided. Yet, the most popular of our exhibits was the copper engraving station. Although we’d attached a template of Łódź Design Festival logotype, most guests chose to embrace their creativity and surprise us with most crazy (or even obscene) designs.
Test Zone was concluded with an instalation entitled „The Brave New World Tree” – a co-developed with the audience, complex three-dimensional structure that was meant to get out of our control. We’d prepared spacial modules, based on plywood, wood, sheets of copper and aluminium, felt, tyvek and cardboard. Since we’d wanted to give the audience a chance to confront with the materials limitations, we were enouraging everyone to try and construct their own „branches” of the tree. Of course we’d provided the tools and protective clothing. We initiated the tree ourselves during the festivals opening, building a swing and a medusa. Within the next few days instalation’s space crowded with the most peculiar compositions: a hammock, several cars, boats, planes or even hats and purses. Some guests had chosen more abstract forms, mixing different materials into a organic welter of shapes and textures that bound the instalation together. All that resulted in a creative chaos that completely surpassed our expectations and filled us with delight.
Location: Łódź Design Festival Centre I, Łódź, Poland
Date: 09 - 19.10.2014