Meet Nynke Koster, an ambitious young woman who makes furniture based on rubber molds of ornamental parts of buildings…or does she? In an interview with Dutch Culture USA, Nynke’s first remark is “Yes, I make furniture, but no, I’m not a furniture maker.” So then how would Nynke describe herself…
“It’s true that I make things you can sit on, but that doesn’t mean that I should be classified as a ‘furniture maker.’ I went to school at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, initially to study interior architecture, because that is where my interests lie: in spaces and architectonic elements. However, in our first year we were required to follow a course on furniture design, and I excelled at it. My professors encouraged me to switch majors, but I stuck with interior architecture because that had been my dream. I quickly realized it wasn’t all that I had expected it to be. It involved a lot of computer work and I missed working with my hands. On top of that I was designing things like swimming pools and libraries; things on a large scale. I liked designing things on a smaller scale more…like furniture. So in the end I ended up switching to furniture making after all, though that doesn’t immediately make me a ‘furniture maker.’
What I want people to understand first of all, is that what I’m doing is not furniture making in the practical sense. I’m not making tables or chairs in the traditional form. You can find enough chairs and tables at places like Ikea. No, at the Academy it was more about developing yourself on an artistic level, it’s an art school after all. And next to Art School I was also studying at the University of Leiden. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with my hands, but I’m also a bookworm, so I needed another intellectual challenge. I took courses in Aesthetics and Ancient Philosophy and they really taught me to look at art in a different way. I started to wonder ‘What is art? When is something art, and when is it just a piece of furniture?’ When it was time for me to develop a graduation project, that line between art and ‘normal’ objects stuck with me. And since the Academy had been a sort of second home for me during my time there, I wanted to do something with the building. I wanted to see if I could take parts of the building and make new autonomous objects from it.”
Nynke’s graduation project, dubbed ‘Coexist’ was based around a copy of Lorenzo Ghilberti’s famous doors ‘Porta del Paradiso,’ acquired by a former director of the Royal Academy of Art in 1921. Using rubber molds, Nynke created five objects from the doors and other places in the academy. But how did Nynke come up with the process of making her objects in this way?
“My work has always been based on identity changes. And I also really like working with rubber and molds. Usually, when you’re making a mold, you’re reproducing something. What I found much more interesting was the mold itself. The fact that the rubber now had a new form of existence really intrigued me. That’s when I started thinking about how I could give molds a new function. And since I had always loved interior architecture, the connection between molds and interior ornaments was easily made. Especially since I realized that I had never seen a space where the furniture in that space was created from the space itself. That’s basically how my work came to be. The molds I make are transformed into autonomous objects that you can sit on. My newest series, ‘Elements of Time,’ is an example of this. I’ve created objects out of ceiling ornaments from different time periods which you can sit on. My work allows you to take a place on a Baroque ceiling.”
We wondered if one of Nynke’s goals then, was to let people experience an interior in a different way.
“Yes, one of the goals of my work is definitely about experiencing spaces. I actually see it as a sort of memory. Every person is bound to places through their memories, and my work now allows people to take a piece of their memory home with them. I make commissioned work based on this idea as well. Right now I’m making a closet for people who are leaving their home soon. They live in a beautiful canal house and I’m making molds of different parts of the house and turning that into a closet. That way they can take a piece of their old house with them to their new house. A 3D memory.”
Lucky for us, Nynke doesn’t just work for private clients. Recently she received two incredible new assignments. The first is for Paleis Soestdijk. For an exhibition at the palace, over 30 designers, artists, and photographers have been asked to create an object for a selected room chosen by curator Anne van der Zwaag. Nynke will create an object for the famous Stuczaal which is the largest room in the palace, and which used to be the center of King Willem III’s hunting lodge. Nynke’s second big project is for the restaurant of the Haags Historisch Museum (The Hague Historical Museum). For the restaurant she will create objects and ‘Elements of Time’ based on the Gevangenpoort (Prison Gate Museum), a medieval prison were people were not only detained but also tortured.
Will Nynke incorporate this history of torture into her work?
“Of course. That is something I really think about. In the use of color for example; I could make the objects red to symbolize the bloodshed that took place in the Gevangenpoort. And I think about other ways to incorporate the history of a place as well. In the Gevangenpoort there is a statue of ‘Jusitia’ with her scale. I’m going to make the objects somewhat round on the bottom. That way, when you sit on them, you rock back and forth a little bit and you have to put in some effort to stay upright. You have to keep yourself in balance, just like Justitia’s scales represent the balance of justice.”
On top of the exciting assignments mentioned above, Nynke is also working on another new project: Coexist New Netherland. For her project, Nynke will try to seek out the remains of Dutch identity in New York City and translate these into her work. The project is made possible by the Stimuleringsfonds, which had called for art projects that have an international context.
So how did Nynke came up with the idea for this new project?
“To be honest, I sort of stumbled upon it. I had just booked a ticket to New York to visit a friend when I was contacted by a Dutch gallery in New York, LMAK Gallery. They were interested in my work and I visited them when I was in New York. While there I decided that though it would be easiest to just put my existing work on a boat from the Netherlands to New York, it would be much more interesting to make new work based on New York, especially because there is such a rich Dutch history there. I had always known that New York used to be New Amsterdam, but it wasn’t until I was there that I really became intrigued by this history. I got caught up in the city and the idea that it used to be Dutch. So I started reading up on the history and became even more obsessed. And that’s how the idea for ‘Coexist New Netherland’ came to be. I wanted to visit places from Dutch history and make molds from them.
With the project I want to see if I can tell Dutch-American history in a new and creative way. When I was in New York I noticed how little Americans know about their own Dutch past. For them, their history seems to begin with the War for Independence. New Netherland is a complete mystery to them, and for a lot of Dutch people too actually. I think that’s a shame and I want to change it. With my new project I hope that through modern art I can reach Americans and bring their Dutch history to life. To tell an old story in a new way. To create 3D memories that shed light on history.
Which New York buildings and places is Nynke interested in?
“The Wyckoff House in Brooklyn is definitely one of them. And the Dyckman House in Manhattan. They’re some of the oldest remaining houses in New York, and they tell the story of the Dutch settlers. But I’m also thinking of incorporating Dutch buildings into my new project. My project will be exhibited in New York (maybe in the Netherlands later as well) so I think it would be really cool to connect the Dutch history in New York with the one in the Netherlands. For example, by making an object from the old WIC House (West India Company) in Amsterdam and bringing that to New York. That way I would be literally bringing part of Amsterdam to New York.”