DRIFT, Fragile Future (detail), 2007. Photo by Henning Rogge. Courtesy of DRIFT
From November 17, 2022 until April 23, 2023, The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents Rhythms of Nature: The Art and Design of DRIFT, an exhibition exploring 15 years of innovative production by DRIFT, the Amsterdam-based studio co-founded by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta. DRIFT creates sculptures, environments, and performances that expand upon the relationships between humanity, nature, and technology. The exhibition examines how the studio’s immersive artworks come vividly to life through complementary practices of design and engineering. In recognition of the studio’s achievements, Collab, the museum affiliate group for modern and contemporary design, honored DRIFT with its Collab Design Excellence Award, on November 19, 2022.
The exhibition conveys the various ways in which DRIFT seeks to reconnect people with the rhythms and structures of the natural world through experiential artworks, often on an urban or architectural scale. Aiming to foster hope for the future, Gordijn and Nauta see nature itself as a technology worthy of study and emulation by artists and designers. Through drawings, models, prototypes, and other documents of experimentation, the exhibition additionally offers glimpses into the research and engineering that underlies the apparent effortlessness of DRIFT’s creations.
The highlight of the exhibition is Fragile Future, a site-specific installation considered to be among the studio’s most influential works. LEDs covered in dandelion seeds—painstakingly hand-glued to mimic the natural shape of the flowerheads—are caught within a web of delicate bronze circuitry. The work’s modular circuits allude to a technology-driven present, while the botanical elements propose a precarious reconciliation between the natural and human-made worlds.
Another section of the exhibition focuses on the Ghost Collection. Foregrounding DRIFT’s boundary-pushing experiments in digital fabrication, these transparent works contain free-floating organic shapes within their hard-edged silhouettes. These phantom-like forms suggest how everyday objects might possess “inner selves” separate from human intentions. The variety of works in the collection also refers to historic hierarchies of furniture found in aristocratic settings, whereby larger, more elaborate seats would be reserved for those of higher social status.
Rhythms of Nature: The Art and Design of DRIFT also explores the process through which large-scale immersive works originate on smaller scale in the studio. A variety of models, drawings, prototypes on view document the studio’s experimental journeys, leading to finished artworks that balance aesthetics, engineering, and narrative. The breadth of skills and knowledge informing these materials and technologies illuminate the multidisciplinary nature of the studio and illustrate DRIFT’s exploratory approach to artistic creation.
The exhibition is organized by Colin Fanning, Assistant Curator of European Decorative Arts.