DRIFT

Art, design and technology merge in delicate visions of beauty.

male and female artist inspecting an object in the female artists hands, amongst electrical circuits and contraptions in their studio
close-up of an electrical circuit and wires with four remote controls bound together with tape, each with a big red button on them
the artist's studio with long light bulbs hanging from the high ceiling, large wooden crates below them and a desk and chair in front of those
6 images

Lonneke Gordijn (b. 1980, Alkmaar, Netherlands) and Ralph Nauta (b. 1978, Swindon, UK) met while studying at Design School Eindhoven and founded studio DRIFT in 2006. Their multi-disciplinary, Amsterdam-based team now has more than 60 members.

Achievements

At the 2019 Dezeen Awards the studio were awarded Designer of the Year and Lighting Design of the Year for their artwork Franchise Freedom.

Did you know?

DRIFT's primary source of inspiration are their natural surroundings and the calmness they foster. Every year, Gordijn harvests fresh dandelions to add to their ongoing project Fragile Future.

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Practice overview

DRIFT’s work begins with a grand vision: a luminous swarm of drones in the night sky, the glass wings of human flight, or flowers that float and rise with their own ghostly cadence. Their prolific output of kinetic and interactive installations engage audiences worldwide, and have taken centre stage at prestigious international events, from Art Basel Miami, to the Venice Biennale. Once an idea has surfaced, Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta - the masterminds of DRIFT - can spend up to a decade to ensure that it is realised. Through collaborations with universities, researchers, and programme developers, an industrious process of design, engineering, and technological experimentation takes place. And with a remarkable synthesis of disciplines, the results are majestic: the materialised visions of Franchise Freedom (2017), In 20 Steps (2015) and Shylight (2016), all operate with as much emotional power as technical prowess. DRIFT masterfully transform ambitious apparitions of the imagination into sensitive and sophisticated works of art.

Nature and technology are central to DRIFT’s practice. Flylight (2015) is a delicate and powerful installation of swarming glass tubes that are programmed to mimic the behavior of starlings. With earnest beauty, it evokes the awe of a liquid flock undulating through vast open skies. Nauta explains that starlings protect themselves by closing in on their predators, meaning that it is near-impossible for a single bird to be attacked. For Flyflight, they developed software that used sensors to change the light and temperature of each individual glass tube in response to its audiences - as if they too were an intruder. Re-examining our own relationship to nature’s incredible intelligence, Flylight opens up the possibility that technology is an extension of natural evolution, and nature a technology in itself.

DRIFT’s work is underpinned by a staunch belief in the importance of humankind’s development. Their practice is framed by lofty questions: what does it mean to exist in the world? How do we make a difference in it? Discussing Drifter (2017), a gravity-defying concrete block, Nauta explains that the inspiration for the work was taken from Thomas More’s Utopia, a text written in the early 1500s. The book envisions a magical building material that is infinitely strong and water-resistant. In the 19th century, concrete was invented. Encompassing all of the qualities that More had imagined, it went on to become the central material in the infrastructure of urban development. It is this capacity for the impossible to be realised on a societal level that motivates DRIFT. However, the duo explain that in a world where technology is being patented and hidden for the vested interests of governments and corporations, it must, more than ever, continue to be developed creatively. Not only for the sake of beauty, art and freedom, but for its unknown, limitless potential for benefit to the world.

"We want to make people pause and find stillness - even if it's only for a few minutes."Drift