Interview: Olle Lundin

This month, we didn’t interview a former TEDxEindhoven speaker, but one in the making! We talked to Swedish designer Olle Lundin in his studio at TAC Eindhoven. Olle will be giving a talk during the TEDxEindhovenSalon ‘Our Future Bodies’ on the 3rd of May. At the time of the interview, we were a few weeks ahead of the event. He was right in the middle of the creation of his talk. Olle started his career with his study at the department of Man and Communication at the Design Academy Eindhoven. His graduation project Qwearing the Collection was the start of his collaboration with Van Abbemuseum. Currently, he is working there as the coordinator of Queering the Collection. In this interview we discussed the term queering and his fascination for the human body. And of course, we talked about his upcoming talk for TEDxEindhovenSalon.

What is queering?

‘Queering, as a process, has two parts. Partly it comes from the LGBTQIA+ community, and has to do with creating visibility for non-normative sexualities, or ideas and gender that might not fit our standard perceptions. The process also concerns age or people with disabilities. So one part of queering is the visibility and engagement with these different identities. And then queering is also a way of thinking, a way of doing, a philosophy and an academic framework, where you use experiences drawn from a queer position. It builds on from post-structural and feminist thought. If queering would be sitting on two chairs, it wouldn’t sit on a chair, it would sit in-between or stand next to them. If you want to pinpoint it, it will slip away. As a thinking tool or as a mechanism it might be deviant or tricky to handle at the beginning, but it is a very powerful way to be thinking about identities or these structures we are still all thinking through.’

What is your role at Van Abbemuseum in Queering the Collection?

‘I was partly working with a sociologist, Alice Venir, when developing the project. After my graduation with the project Qwearing the Collection, we started with a public program connected to Queering the Collection. Throughout spring 2017, we had queering sessions. For this, we invited speakers and people for workshops. We had sessions on fashion, the nuclear family and raising kids, colleagues and co-workers. The one that was on sports was amazing!’

Sports? Cool! That is surprising!

‘Yeah! Or, well, not too surprising, when you think about it! There is a lot of potential for subversive thinking in many places: linking art, politics and activism. Basically I was developing and coordinating these events.’

In Qwearing the Collection, your graduation project for Van Abbemuseum, the visitors could wear tour guide texts on their bodies. Also in your other projects, like Body Behaviour and your performances, the human body seems to be an important aspect in your work. Where does this fascination for the human body come from?

‘Oh perfect haha! I can use this interview to guide my TEDx talk!’

Oh great! I have some questions about your talk later on.

‘Cool! But to answer your question: that interest has always been with me. Since I started being interested in life! I have a background as a musician. I was into theatre quite early on. I have always been interested and excited in sports, in what the body can do, how you can train it, and how it can perform. That has also lead to my design interest, which took me to fashion. The reason why I didn’t study fashion design was because I was more interested in the body as a political site, where fashion is also a part of. Eventually, this all led me to communication design. In communication design, the format of discussing a body is not only in clothes. It can be any kind of medium. It can be a publication, a performance, or a chair if you want to. The body has always been central to that, but I guess that is the case for most designers. For me, the interest in communication between people has always been the most important. How that relates to identity, and how that identity relates to society, and the tension that exists within that society. That is where I want to lay my interventions and what I want to play with.’

You will be one of the speakers of TEDxEindhovenSalon ‘Our Future Bodies’. I don’t know if you know that Pfizer is the main sponsor for this event? Because of that I personally expected medical experts to take the stage. I was very surprised and excited to see your name on the list. Why did you want to do this event?

‘Oh really? I didn’t know that! For me, I was excited to hear the term ‘Our Future Bodies’. That can be a very cybery, maybe even futuristic term. Or life extending, medical and health-driven. But I think what I can bring to the table is that the body is a site for all of these things combined, from a cultural perspective. For me the body isn’t only medical. I think it has more to do with bringing culture, technology, and experiences into one framework. The work that I do in the Van Abbemuseum and the work I have previously done allows bodies to act and communicate in more ways. Make sure that the body is able to act and be a body to the fullest extent possible. Whatever that means. And whatever body it concerns. When we talk about the body, which body are we talking about? Are we talking about gender? Are we talking about sexuality? Are we talking about age differences or where people come from? How do we reflect on these ideas?’

How did you start with your talk? Did you know exactly what you wanted to say?

‘No, I didn’t! I knew what I wanted to talk about and what I wanted to unpack. But it was a challenge to talk about what I want to talk about, within the timeframe of only 15 minutes. It can help me to sharpen and define my arguments. I see the very defined format as a great tool. So given the topic and the format itself, I am very excited to do this. The process has to have its way! It is very nice to have some help with that. I am amazed to see how Koert (program team member of TEDxEindhoven, red.) has helped me with the framing and the storyline! The mentors you’re given is a nice way to coach those of us who present, in order to have a cohesive presentation.’

That is nice to hear! You are a teacher yourself, at the Design Academy. What courses do you teach at the Design Academy?

‘Design methodology, a basic structure to think about the process of design, rather than just ask a basic question and look for an end goal. I am giving the students tools to explore the various parts of the research, the analysis, the early sketches, and the concept stage, all the way to testing and the product launch. What makes it exciting for me is to implement anthropology and sociology within the arguments that students define. I find that at the heart of design. To me, objects – communication design – are all arguments for a certain action, or ask a certain thing from the user. That’s how we try to frame the assignment that we give, together with my colleague. And happily, we are now also working with an anthropologist in the class. Which is super nice!’

Sounds like you’re very busy. Are you working on even more things?

Among other things, I’ve taken up Smocking, was an exhibition that took place at Tent Galeries in September and October of 2017. There I had a new work produced, which isn’t online yet. Since then I’ve been busy building up the exhibition you see downstairs, here at TAC at the moment, which is called Reloading Technology. The exhibition is situated and gravitating around TAC and Eindhoven. It is asking questions about technological innovations by inviting companies, universities, designers and artists to negotiate the different elements that make out this very broad term “technological innovations”. I curated this exhibition. At the moment, we are in the middle of the public program phase of that. The exhibition will end the day after the TEDx event, so on May the 4th with a performance by the UK lecturer, designer and researcher, Georgina Voss. And I just recently returned from the Salone del Mobile where the DAE were exhibiting the Not For Sale expo. Here I helped to organise the breakfast talks, and I worked behind the press desk. So that’s been all really excited.’

Jeroen Zwaal, Michel Decre and Milee Herweijer are the other speakers for TEDxEindhovenSalon ‘Our Future Bodies’. For more information about the event, click here.


Body Behaviour, 2015


Qwearing the Collection, Van Abbemuseum, 2017


Reloading Technology, TAC Eindhoven, until May 4th 2018