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Metaforma: Self-Search in Material Behavior


Hagar Ofek

About Design track

Mentor — 

Liora Rosin

How can the connection between matter and psychological phenomena inform values of self-morphing in materials? Can matter fall in love? Get hurt? Quarrel? The worlds of mind and matter seem far removed at first sight, but actually there are multiple relations between the two. One such relation is evident in the overlap of concepts and terms used in the study of matter and mind, such as energy, compensation, balance, explosion and tension. 

I became aware of the term “frustrated material” following a research collaboration in Professor Eran Sharon’s physics lab at the Hebrew University. This odd term is one of many that express self-morphing. The tracing of natural phenomena, from the development of leaves to the cellular growth has spawned an entire discipline examining the combination of materials with diverse properties that can self-morph using simple manipulations such as exposure to heat, moisture or air. 

This study deals with material relationships that follow the principles of self-morphing inspired by human behavior. The relationship I study is between two ceramic materials: stoneware clay with a high fireclay percentage, and porcelain. Clay is used for sculpting and the manufacture of large vessels requiring a strong skeleton and a stable body. High fireclay concentration gives it a rough character, prevents it from shrinking and retains its shape. Porcelain lacks fireclay; it is soft and tender. Due to the lack of “skeleton”, it is highly shrinkable and sensitive to heat. Nevertheless it is not fragile: deep within it, porcelain produces strong physical bonds that make it resilient. 

In her book The Coupled Unconscious, psychologist Dr. Irit Kleiner-Paz writes that relationships are fed by the entirety of the couple’s properties. That coupled unconscious creates a new property. In the material context, merging the indifferent clay with the sensitive porcelain produces great tension and releases unspent energy. At the moment of meltdown, the pressures in the material encounter charge the system with a new property – self-movement. The joint coping and the solutions offered by the material relationship produce a dance, a movement that can lead to a new and optimal morphology, or to collapse, fissuring, and deformation.

 The dialogue with the physician and psychologist had moved the project along three channels: creating tools that combine the two materials; video documentation of the material’s movement from the oven; and a conversation between a relationship psychologist and a physics expert. The ability to challenge matter rather than just use it in contexts convenient for it directs the design world to a new place: a visual language shared by the scientific study of matter and amorphous emotional expression.

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Hagar Ofek

Hagar Ofek is a designer, materials researcher and artist, graduate of the master's program in the About Design Track, with a bachelor's degree in industrial design at Bezalel and the exchange program at Weissensee Art Academy Berlin. Her works are centered on the exploration of the expressiveness made possible by the unique qualities of each material, with special emphasis on its correspondence with the timeline and with human emotion. Hagar's works have been presented in several group exhibitions and fairs in Israel and around the world, including Design Week in Jerusalem, Salone del Mobile in Milan, Bröhan Museum in Berlin and the London Design Biennale.

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