Cathedral Thinking: The 200 year designs of Maarten Baas
Designer and artist Maarten Baas unveiled his piece New! Newer! Newest! at this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan. But no one alive now will be able to see it. Here, Baas explains some of the thinking behind this piece and his wider work.
as told to Johanna Derry
New! Newer! Newest! consists of two parts. With a production time of 200 years, The NEW Forest is a 100 hectare area of woodland Maarten Baas has had planted on Flevoland in the Netherlands. By 2216 it will reveal a souvenir from the 21st century: a flashy logo saying “NEW!” Each season will show different colour combinations, generating a new NEW! logo for years to come.
Part two is The Tree Trunk Chair. In the grounds of the Groninger Museum in collaboration with designer Gavin Munro, he has planted a tree next to a mould that over the next two centuries will slowly grow over the form to reveal a chair, that can then be harvested.
Can you describe your work in one sentence?
Just some stretching exercises in designland.
Where did the idea for planning a long-scale piece of work like New! Newer! Newest! first begin?
The title is a reaction to the increasing amount of hype we have for things that are new. But something new today is old tomorrow, and still we demand to be further entertained. I think all that’s cool – two years ago I took on that concept by creating a wild circus [Baas is in Town at the Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan]. This year’s piece was the counter balance, something which is slower to come about than one can imagine.
Did you find it challenging to design for something that would only come to be after your own lifetime?
Yes, it puts a different perspective on everything: A year is short term, 10 years is short term, even 50 years is short term, compared to eternity.
What’s the appeal of working with nature to create something?
The slow growth. It needs the time that it takes, no more, no less. We can’t speed it up, and human beings can’t control it.
Do you think long-term thinking will become an ongoing feature of your work?
No, nothing is an ongoing feature in my work.
Can you describe your workspace?
It’s a farm, which has turned into a studio. It’s a very rural and nice!
Do you see yourself, and this installation in particular, as part of a tradition or a school of thought?
I never think about these kind of contexts. I just make what I feel like making, that’s it…