When one calls oneself HLOW (which literally means “sweet” in Tunisian Arabic with the same double meaning as in English: of cuteness and of sugary stuff) and one meets a talented designer who creates a whole collection around the notion of sweetness and its counterpart, abundance disgust, one is definitely bound to do something about it. This is what happened during our visit of the last Eindhoven Design Academy graduation show, in the class of Contextual Design. We encountered the strange work Hala Tawil, a strong statement and a new lexicon of sweetened design.
Can you tell us a bit more about this graduation project: gradual unease. It looks like ceramic but it’s resin, it seems to be sweet and cute at first, then terribly cruel (like dismembered body parts), then a bit kinky, then futuristic (as if we were traveling in the world of infinitely small) and finally it shows its materiality (colors that are catching the light, rough patches and iridescence)? What was it about, what did you want to represent? And is there a function at all? Could you tell us about the association you create between the urge to acquire and the urge to have sex?
The starting point of the work was a fascination with the imagery associated with children, specifically, foods in toys and cartoons…which seems to look incredibly appetizing and attractive, but also artificial and alienating. It became rather clear, that this imagery, of hefty pink sausages, dripping syrup, thick spherical globs of milky ice-cream…could be read in a somewhat…perverse…way (I ask you to use your imagination here). Looking more closely at cartoons (I focused mainly on early American animations including the well-known Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera cartoons..the classics), it was evident that this was not a merely subjective observation: Cartoons have long played with this fantasy and tension between sex, food and childhood innocence.
Following that, I worked for around a year with Najla El Zein (cf. attached video), a prominent studio in Lebanon. As part of a very small team, I gained a deeper understanding of material explorations, design conception….etc. The practice was very wide, developing client based commissions and also a lot of in-house material and sculptural experimentation.
This experience is truly what fueled me to apply for Design Academy.
I never really defined myself as a designer, as I assumed in the traditional sense, designers are probably interested in producing functional objects. But I was interested in objects, in human relationship to inanimate objects. Design Academy seemed to offer this leeway and rigor that I was looking for.
You just graduated. This is a very interesting time of your life. Do you have precise ambitions in life that you may want to share with us? What kind of design do you wish to produce? What are your plans for the years to come?
It’s funny to think that I feel I’ve been (along with my fellow colleagues) in a bubble for the past 2 years, and I only truly felt it after graduating this summer. Nonetheless, Design Academy helped me ground my own interests and practice, and I am truly grateful for this experience. I think there is a great sense of freedom that comes post-graduation. And I would like to continue working on this intersection between text, imagery and materiality, and continue to create some sort separate worlds conveyed through the works. Additionally, I never underestimate the value of learning from others and their experiences, so I am eager to work closely and collaborate with others as well.
The Wind Portal by Najla El Zein Studio at the V&A Museum