9 April - In the context of the 34th World Expo opening in Milan on May 1st, Het Nieuwe Instituut addresses this phenomenon from different perspectives between April 26 and August 23. The exhibition GLASS shows how this age-old, man-made material is still inextricably connected to progress and how it continuously challenges contemporary designers to innovative experiments.
The Crystal Palace, an immense exhibition hall of glass and cast iron, was built especially for the first World Expo in London in 1851. This equally transparent as revolutionary building by gardener/architect Joseph Paxton formed the stage where the industrial revolution was celebrated. The way the collaboration between designer, scientist and producer leads to the development and application of new technologies had never been presented on such a scale before. More than six million people visited the exhibition, which consisted of hundreds of thousands of different presentations. Ever since, glass and technological progress have become almost synonymous.
Lens, tube and cable
The exhibition GLASS shows how the evolution of the chemical formula of glass forms the basis for innovations. This evolution leads to the lens and thus to the telescope, then to the tube and thus to the X-ray, and, more recently, to the fiberglass cable and thus to a virtually limitless development of the Web. Because of the contributions made by the lens, the tube and the cable to the ‘expanding gaze’ of modern society, they play a leading role in the exhibition. At the same time, glass is the material that makes surveillance possible and puts society under a magnifying glass. This intriguing conflict forms the underlying story of the exhibition GLASS.
The history of the material is shown on the basis of objects from the collections of, amongst others, Teylers Museum, including Newton's colour wheel, and Museum Boerhaave, which made the so-called achromatic telescope by Dollond from the 18th century available for loan. Work by Copier and Meydam, who like no others managed to depict progress through their designs, is on loan from the Glass Museum Leerdam.
New forms and applications
The exchange between designer and scientist still continues today. Glass is a material in constant development. A lightweight type of glass was recently developed on the basis of aluminium dust, which again leads to innovative applications. The exhibition shows how contemporary designers do not only collaborate with scientists, but also come to new innovations themselves. With work by Hella Jongerius, Bert Jan Pot, Muller van Severen, Arnout Meijer, and others.
Innovation at the World Expo 1851 - now
Since its inception, a variety of differing ambitions have come together at the immensely popular World Expo. What prevails over all differences, however, is a strong faith in progress. In the most spectacular manner, the World Expo's have presented a vision of a future where technological innovation is able to bring the unattainable closer. The ability of designers to capture the yet unseen forms an important incentive for Het Nieuwe Instituut to develop a comprehensive programme on the theme of the World Expo.
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Glass Cow in the permanent exhibition of the German Hygiene Museum, 1967. Photo Richard Peter jun. Collection SLUB Dresden / Deutsche Fotothek
Capacitor and prism for projection. Photo Franz Stoedtner. Collection SLUB Dresden / Deutsche Fotothek
Worker manipulating small glass objects in the hot bay with manipulator arms. Photographer unknown, ca. 1969. Repository: Library of Congress.
El Ultimo Grito. A Rematerialisation: Industries, 2013. Borosilicate glass. Photo POI
Medical students observing an operation on a lantern screen via a projecting periscope located above the operating table. Halftone after a drawing by W. Koekkoek, 1909. Collection Wellcome Library London