Hybrid Man

interview

I met Professor Frans Vogelaar in his office at the Academy for Media Arts in Cologne.
He apologizes for his somewhat muddled appearance , which he attributes to the fact that he is awake 36 hours after the graduation party of the day before.
Before I recovered from the surprise at hearing these words from someone who (a) my father’s age , and (b) is a professor , he has once again apologizes to schedule a double appointment, the other appointment with Dingeman Kuilman the director of ARTez, the art academy in Arnhem.
He advises me to walk around the grounds of the academy as the students on that day are exhibiting their final projects.

Max Urai
Media and Cultural Sciences
University Utrecht
March 2012

@ BLIK #5.0

Max Urai interviews Professor Frans Vogelaar, who is a professor for hybrid space at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne.
In this interview Max Urai asks him about the path that the professor followed that lead to his teaching and research position.
It also discusses the concept of hybrid space and the inspirations of the professor to teach this field.

The campus is full of installations, video screens and paintings, with their creators standing next to their works. Some are in thigh boots and XXL-sweaters with holes, others in turtlenecks and berets and others in all-stars and fashionable hats, but they all have the same tense look in their eyes. OSome are still adjusting their installations and shifting their projectors, all are willing to have a chat, and they have a surprisingly good story to tell. I meet a girl who is about to make an animated film “freaks”, a boy who the poetic side of science would like to stress and a pregnant young woman who has a video installation in which people see are those squares in the colors of their clothes on a wall painting. Prof. Vogelaartells me later that most students already had to sit out a study before they came to the KHM, and it’s to note. The influences and inspirations of the artwork really come from everywhere: film, theatre and the Visual Arts, but also things like opera, medicine and theoretical physics.

As Prof. Vogelaar finishes his conversation, he quickly discusses with two students while I am entering his office. If it is still not clear enough that the professor is of a different caliber than I am used to the University Utrecht, his office leaves absolutely no question about that. The walls that are pasted with posters and texts written with markers, there are four mysterious machines zooming and everywhere are small pieces of plastic and metal lying around. Even for my standards it looks like a chaotic mess, but it’s the kind of mess of someone for who cleaning up is simply not interesting enough to spend time on, there is still to much to do. After he finishes discussing with his students, the professor takes place and we start the interview.

In short: who are you and what is your position at this school?

My name is Frans Vogelaar. My background is in architecture and industrial design, I have worked for Studio Alchymia in the 1980s and worked for Rem Koolhaas in the 1990s. In the early 1990s, I started to develop a new field of study: hybrid space. This was twenty years ago the start of analog and digital space. At that time, I was very interested in networks, internet was still not yet public, but the concept of networks – social networks, mobility networks, etc.-was of course already known.
Ten years after I had developed this idea I started at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and was appointed as a full-time professor in hybrid space.

The Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln – The Academy of Media Arts is a very special institute. It was started about twenty five years ago, and it’s extremely successful, extremely anarchistic … I think, in all my global experience, it’s certainly the best media school in the world. We have three diepartments: media art, film, and media sciences. We have about 350 students, about 40-50 professors and a technical staff.

Our students are somewhat older than the average student in Netherlands. In the space where we are now, there are three second-year students, all end twenties early thirties. Roman Halbrock is just graduated as a physician. Jonas Zais is a television producer. And then we have Robert Olawuyi, who has studied classical voice and art history in Hungary and both the studies completed. All three are the students of media art and that gives you a bit of a background.

The professor speaks soft and calm, but with the authority of someone who has a lot of business sense. Despite his lack of sleep, what set them playing tricks on the area of coherence, his story is absolutely fascinating to hear.

What is in practice a hybrid space?

Simply what we now understand as combining communication and real space. For example: you interviews me now with your mobile phone. Anyone can call you now, and then for a few minutes we connected in two areas. I sit in the real space with you, and you’re with someone on the line. It is a very simple example, but the result is thus a hybrid space. There is a mix between the public space and the private space that suddenly intrudes when a call comes in.

You said that you had worked for Rem Koolhaas. How did you do so?

In the 80 ‘s I am honors at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. I knew when al pretty sure I wanted from the design steps and architecture wanted to do. I was planning a trip to New York and I found his book Delirious New York insanely good. When I returned from New York I thought: God, why I look not where he works? He turned out to be in Rotterdam to work, in a desk with maybe 15-20 people and he was at work on what was then his first construction project would be, the Dutch dance theatre. I looked up, my work and my portfolio there left behind. Three weeks later I called him and asked if he had the time to look at my work., he has me when invited to come and actually I am directly go to work.

How are you after that, then again in the academic world?

After a few years Koolhaas – what a fantastic time was – I wanted to study architecture, me develop independently as an architect. During one of the last days with him, at a mad ride from Rotterdam to the Hague, he asked me “what are you going to do?” I have been told that I probably wanted to study architecture. He invited me to come to London for two weeks then to watch, he wanted to imagine at the Architectural Association. I was instantly captivated by and got to London gone to study there. Within a year I’m in a very interesting unit on a number of projects started that would later lead to the concept of hybrid space. We speak now about early 90s: as I said the internet was not yet public and I was interested in networks. I had already suspected that there is such a thing as a hybrid space. I’m going to develop that idea over the years, and that is ultimately a very good basic proven.

How do you use this concept outside the theory?

We are currently working on a project that the “Intelligent City Forum” is called, a collaboration between the London School of Economics and the MIT Media Lab. We are a few months ago asking that to strengthen our agency consortium Hybrid Space Lab, and in it, we explore and develop projects for the new E-mobility. This is a kind of combination of Electronic Mobility and Electric Mobility.

Mobility is going to change radically in the coming years. First of all we will increasingly use in our transport of electric motors instead of traditional internal combustion engines. The latter have about 1000 highly engineered components that are, where you need a lot of knowledge for, high-quality materials, good engineers and so on. An electric motor, on the other hand, has only about 100 parts and can be made at a much lower level of quality. There you have not such a super engineers, almost anyone can build electric motors.

Electric motors have other benefits: so you have no local pollution more, and we can the wretched sound of the traditional combustion engine be wished away. Cars will also be smaller: in 75% of cases we can with very small quiet cars with short range everywhere.

Another development – that is why we call it E-mobility, not electrical-mobility – is that we are developing smart cars. Google develops automated drive. By means of sensors, scanners, software and so can cars much closer on each other and much safer driving, we do not need driver to play, allowing us more time will win by us not to bother with an increasingly dumber becoming activity, but can focus our attention on other things. At the same time, the car will become less important. What is important is how you are going to link to each other different multi-modal mobilitysystemen. You’ll need a bike, then ten kilometers the car and then you go make a trip of 300 kilometres by train can take you like the best. You will all this, do you really mean all, through your smartphone.ce, I have the feeling that I am doing six months now with hybrid design. It is accelerating. It is interesting to see that the international interest in the idea is very large. That is why we are now invited to the Beijing Design week. We are not a design school, but still we affect design in a very innovative way.

The professor pauses and runs out. I study the Office again and let me tell you that one of the devices in the background to zoom a homemade 3D printer, which is a part of a project. If the prof again what we resume our interview on breath has come. The conversation is lighter below, and we chat a bit about the differences between Netherlands and Germany. The professor, a Dutch citizen who lives in Berlin, is particularly pleased with Germany, especially public transport, the young generation with their worldliness and the German design. Even the German sense of humor, adopted worldwide as a contradiction in terms, according to prof fine. If the conversation inevitably end up on the Dutch cuts in art is his advice simple: “Emigrate”.

We run a piece together about the campus and buy a cup of coffee at the student canteen. The professor looks proudly to the exhibiting students. This is his place. If he announces his train to remove we say goodbye. He recommend me to see the graduation films, which then begin in the Auditorium. Although I understand the German not so good, they are made with undeniable skill. I leave the campus with a button, two free pencils and the urge to make something.

You said earlier that you for developing hybrid space was inspired by networks. What do you think of current social networks as Facebook and Google +?

We have done a workshop a month ago at the Delft University of technology, which is called INDESEM. The theme was “Losing Ground”, and exactly this theme, new electronic social networks, we try to find in it. With a large team of international scientists and students we have seven days long searched for really new what our social networks with our existing social space Crosslinking.

Use myself not in Facebook and Twitter I find frankly a complete disaster. A project what we have done has predicted this not so much as considered. This project was called Public Media Urban Interface, this we have done 20 years ago, but is still highly topical on the level of almost not expected developments in the field of electronic social networks.

Where are you currently working on?

I have proposed a new area in the last six months: hybrid design, post-industrial design. We go away – we are already long gone – of an industrial society. If you look at the design, also in the Netherlands, it is still about the object. It is now about services. I have done twenty years about hybrid space, I have the feeling that I am doing six months now with hybrid design. It is accelerating. It is interesting to see that the international interest in the idea is very large. That is why we are now invited to the Beijing Design week. We are not a design school, but still we affect design in a very innovative way.

The professor pauses and runs out. I study the Office again and let me tell you that one of the devices in the background to zoom a homemade 3D printer, which is a part of a project. If the prof again what we resume our interview on breath has come. The conversation is lighter below, and we chat a bit about the differences between Netherlands and Germany. The professor, a Dutch citizen who lives in Berlin, is particularly pleased with Germany, especially public transport, the young generation with their worldliness and the German design. Even the German sense of humor, adopted worldwide as a contradiction in terms, according to prof fine. If the conversation inevitably end up on the Dutch cuts in art is his advice simple: “Emigrate”.

We run a piece together about the campus and buy a cup of coffee at the student canteen. The professor looks proudly to the exhibiting students. This is his place. If he announces his train to remove we say goodbye. He recommend me to see the graduation films, which then begin in the Auditorium. Although I understand the German not so good, they are made with undeniable skill. I leave the campus with a button, two free pencils and the urge to make something.