Bastiaan Stoker

Design Academy Eindhoven

By Louis Barnard / 16th February 2021
Bastiaan Stoker COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

Bastiaan Stoker
COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

BASTIAAN STOKER GRADUATED from the Public-Private course at Design Academy Eindhoven in 2020. Despite his unquestionable talent as a technician and designer, Stoker is committed to taking neither himself, nor his discipline, too seriously.

After extensive research into the psychology surrounding the consumption of art and design, Stoker became interested in the fickle nature of an object’s value in relation to differing and often-fabricated forms of legitimacy. Experimenting with ideas of ‘false authenticity’, Stoker infuses his designs with comic narratives and human attributes that alter the audience’s perception of the objects.

The playfulness with which he approaches his work is exhibited in each piece, none more so than his sleepy graduate project, ‘Dennis the Desk Lamp’. After a veritably difficult year, ‘Dennis’ is as exhausted as the rest of us, and lets you know with yawns and drooping eyelids. The story that ‘Dennis’ tells is as simple as it is effective, evoking a pure response from the viewer. By avoiding the traditionally convoluted and disorientating language of design, Stoker rejects the notion that the viewer is required to rationalise their attraction to a piece of art.

Bas Stoker with 'Dennis The Desklamp', 2020 COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

Bas Stoker with ‘Dennis The Desklamp’, 2020
COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

After graduating, Stoker has kept busy with a number of projects such as designing a diverse range of stage props for artist Reindier and video artist Tanja Busking. He is also collaborating with Bram de Vos in the further development of their graduation project entitled ‘Mingling Lights’, which is due to show later this year.

Bas Stoker and Bram de Vos, 'Mingling Lights', 2020. Another graduation project that's still in development. The motivation for this project is to discover new interactions we could have with light, in a pure and fun way. COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

Bas Stoker and Bram de Vos, ‘Mingling Lights’, 2020. The motivation for this project is to discover new interactions we could have with light, in a pure and fun way.
COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

The Design Edit (TDE): Could you tell us about the inspiration behind your graduate project, ‘Dennis the Desk Lamp’?
Bastiaan Stoker (BS): The inspiration came from my research into how we value things in life and how we enjoy them. What I discovered is that there is quite a bit of psychology involved in the value of things. I could show you a coffee cup and you might see a very ordinary coffee cup, but the moment I apply a story to it you would have a completely different judgement of its value. For instance, I could say that I visited London a year ago and smuggled this coffee cup onto the plane and now it’s sitting here in my hand. Your perception of the cup would change, even if the story wasn’t true.

There are so many examples of this, how these different forms of ‘authenticity’ can alter our perception of an object’s value. Drinking wine from a more expensive bottle makes the wine taste better – an absurd idea, but true. This ‘false authenticity’ manifests in ‘Dennis the Desk Lamp’ because Dennis has free will, some days he feels better than others and how you treat him will affect how he responds. And you have to believe in this narrative for Dennis to even exist.

Studio Bas Stoker, ‘Dennis The Desklamp’, 2020
COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

“Dennis has free will, some days he feels better than others …”

Bas Stoker

Studio Bas Stoker, ‘Dennis The Desklamp’, 2020
COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker / PHOTOGRAPH: Iris Rijskamp

” … and how you treat him will affect how he responds”

Bas Stoker

TDE: Where are you planning on taking that thinking now?
BS: I’m looking to follow through with this abstraction, to create more living objects. I would love to create a space where everything is in some way humanised. For example, chairs that you sit on that eventually get tired of you and push you off, or if there’s too much on your table the legs might start shaking because the load is too heavy. This is a world I envision and want to follow through on in the next few years.

With ‘Dennis’ specifically, I’m working on a redesign of his internals – updating the mechanism and his brain. I’m also updating his reproducibility. I would like to be able to produce a small series and set some Dennises free into the world.

TDE: Which designer is your role model, or most inspires you?
BS: I’m a big fan of Dominic Wilcox. There are not many designers or artists that use absurdism in such a way. For me, he’s a comedic designer. A particular project named ‘Honesty Stamps’ is great. The stamps spell out a sincere apology, or a heartfelt message, such as “All I ask for is one last chance” and “I swear on my mother’s grave I’ll never do that again”. I think it is such a funny idea to mass produce your most sincere apology, or deepest of gratitudes.

Dominic Wilcox, 'Honesty Stamps', 1999 COURTESY: Dominic Wilcox

Dominic Wilcox, ‘Honesty Stamps’, 1999. An efficient way of giving your sincere apology. Dominic Wilcox’s work has been influential in my attitude towards creativity.
COURTESY: Dominic Wilcox

TDE: What is the most important thing you learned at your design college?
I think that the diversity of strong and stubborn characters in design school has made the biggest impact on me. All of the opinions, backgrounds, knowledge and interests represented there – it’s a real celebration of differences. Design school has taught me the value of being curious.

Bas Stoker and Jarno Burger, 'Tentacles', 2020. These are mechanical tentacles that were created for Reindier, a music artist. COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

Bas Stoker and Jarno Burger, ‘Tentacles’, 2020. These are mechanical tentacles that were created for Reindier, a music artist.
COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

TDE: What was your standout memory of 2020?
BS: There’s not a particular moment that comes to mind. However, I did spend the early part of 2020 helping to build a non-profit organisation, ‘Schone Bakkes’. It was founded with the intention of producing protective facemasks for healthcare institutions until a point where companies with better facilities would out-produce us. The basic structure of our facemask was a 3D printed part, which an online community of makers would send over to us. We used a transparent binder sheet as a splashguard and fed everything through a UV sterilising tunnel. During that period, I believe we supplied about 6-10% of all facemasks in the region. I met many great people, some of whom I’m now working with on other projects.

TDE: What is your song of 2020?
According to Spotify, that must be ‘It’s Too Late To Turn Back Now’ by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose. But if I can shamelessly plug something here, which I totally can, I recommend taking a listen to the Viagra Boys. They’ve just released a new album and are absolutely brilliant.

‘Dennis The Desklamp’ in action
COURTESY: Studio Bas Stoker

Studio Bas Stoker 

Article By

Louis Barnard
Louis Barnard is a Hackney-born and based writer, covering a range of disciplines within the visual arts. With a background in outreach and community-led programmes, Barnard has a soft spot for art that is socially engaged and empowering.
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