Stipulated norms pertaining to established artistic practices, functionality, or visual vocabulary, are always being challenged, with new creations striving to defy the status quo. The relationship between humans and objects—one of significant value—resides at the very core of everyday life and is haunted by similar rigid perceptions that only a few dare to sever. Dutch designer Aldo Bakker is amongst them. With an oeuvre featuring exquisite shapes, materials, and colours, Bakker breathes life into singular sculptural art, furniture designs, and pouring vessels. His ‘schenkers’ or pouring vessels have emerged as one of his most seminal design typologies. These sensuous objects in monochrome skins and calm silhouettes are far from being compliant and dictate the rules of interaction. The ever-expanding body of pouring vessels is highlighted in an exhibition dubbed Aldo Bakker – Pouring Vessels at Kunstmuseum The Hague, one of Europe’s largest art museums. Open to the public from October 22, 2022 to May 07, 2023, the exhibition features nearly 40 vessel designs by Bakker.
Derived from the Dutch verb ‘schenken’ that vaguely means ‘to gift’ or ‘to pour,’ the term ‘schenker’ was coined by Bakker to symbolise that his vessels go beyond a mere carafe from which to serve water or wine. “The noun schenker, however, only refers to a person who gives, not to a vessel that pours. But pouring is giving. That suggests that Bakker’s neologism ‘schenker’ does not refer to run-of-the-mill vessels that pour water, oil, vinegar, or salt, but also to objects that give new forms to the world,” reads an essay written by historian Ernst van Alphen for the exhibition. The ensemble of vessels on display at the immersive exhibition features Bakker’s obscure ways of containing substances in materials ranging from gold and silver to crystal.
Bakker’s design process is fuelled by his curiosity and an insatiable urge to discover, analyse, and execute forms. This journey comprises an element of temporary appropriation that entails deliberations regarding material, technique, weight, colour, sound, and finish. Through a meticulous process carried out in collaboration with dextrous craftsmen and production partners, Bakker amalgamates cohesive facets to sculpt new structural configurations with unique characteristics. The Dutch artist forgoes the tendency of following a specific discipline or context of use, creating a space that harbours artistic expression that is neither influenced nor inhibited by any antecedent or archetype. The outcome is independent formations and autonomous objects free from the shackles of time, place, or culture.
The thrill stems from the incongruity of the autonomous, seemingly unattainable forms of the schenkers and the corresponding actions of the users. These extraordinary silhouettes, available to pick up and use, stimulate the senses, and invite intimacy. Handling and interacting with each schenker offers a different sensory experience. The soy sauce flowing from the elongated beak of the Soy Pourer is accentuated in an almost mannerist way, while the drops of liquid that sit on the curves of the Tongue have an almost sensual effect. Each schenker emerges as a protagonist, a central character nudging the observer to question and even counter notions about objects as commodities.
Bakker’s vessels transcend the restraints of inanimate objects. Instead, they morph into creatures that invite engagement and dialogue with their behaviour and language. Inviting users into a journey of questioning the existing conditions, the first survey of all the schenkers created by Bakker at Kunstmuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands gives viewers the opportunity to experience this engagement, not just with their bodies as they handle the objects, but also with piqued senses as the interaction unfolds. Although the vessels are ultimately functional objects that strive to meet technical criteria, they reiterate Bakker’s effort towards broadening the horizons of defining an object while tapping the imaginative capacities of the users.
Aldo Bakker – Pouring Vessels will be on view from October 22, 2022, to May 07, 2023, at Kunstmuseum The Hague in The Netherlands.