Aldo Bakker – by Hans den Hartog Jager
Aldo Bakker (1971) is a designer that battles the spirit of the time. Nearly all his designs, whether it be Glass-line (1998), Saltcellar (2007), Side Table (2008), or Jug + Cup (2011), are remarkable for their defiant refusal to be classified by time, fashion or zeitgeist. Let alone be classified by the surrounding world – those who see Bakker’s designs for the first time, often wonder what their purpose is. This defiance is important to Bakker: brought up as the son of designers Gijs Bakker and Emmy van Leersum, he decided against following the traditional way of education and instead has sought out his own strengths. Bakker is an autodidact that likes to follow his own path.
Different from most other designers, Bakker rarely starts a design from the desire to solve a practical problem. In fact, though Bakker may unmistakably be a designer, his interest in functionality only comes in at the latest stage. His objects nearly always originate from the fascination for a form – be it the guardrail of a motorway, the curve of a stairwell, or the facade of a Seventeenth Century Amsterdam canal house. Bakker looks, sketches, and draws and in this way he researches whether a form can be transformed into an object – or rather, an image. At this stage, the logic and beauty of the form are more important to Bakker than an actual function. His fascinations in this process are akin to the ideas of artists such as Cézanne and Brancusi, who tried to distill a mountain, a plate of apples or a head down to their (geometrical) essence. Bakker does the same. However, in his research he is also seeking whether a new combination of such forms could lead to new objects, and new ways of use. Why does a pitcher always have an opening at the top or side? Why are salt and sugar always in opaque containers that obscure the amount you are going to sprinkle? This transforms a salt shaker into a spoon, containing the salt in the broadened grip. And a pitcher becomes a diagonally cut vessel, with the grip on the inside.
As a result of the de- and reconstruction, many people do not recognize the function of Bakker’s designs at first – sometimes Bakker seems to produce designs that have yet to find a use. This makes them intriguing, for they seem very logical and ordinary at the same time, as if, in spite of their oddity, they feel at home in the world. In this respect, Bakker seeks other goals: he wants to entice the user to handle the objects in his or her environment in an entirely different way. In Bakker’s work, pouring, drinking, sprinkling, sitting, are no longer acts one mindlessly carries out. Through their form and material, his designs seem to tempt you to approach their function in a different way, to perform all these everyday casual acts with renewed attention and concentration. It is telling that Bakker’s designs often remind us of (parts of) autonomous beings that seem to have a logical place in the world. In this way, the stool Anura unmistakably has a (very flat) head, a back, legs. His Tonus and Candle Dome look like wigs or hairstyles, and his famous Vinegar Flask irrefutably evokes a penguin-like creature with an eagerly snapping beak. Yet Bakker is not out for identification or endearment. You could rather say this likening to creatures confirms his body of work can be seen as an entirely independent, new world in which people handle things differently, see time differently and relate themselves to their environment in a new way. Bakker is a designer that does not want to help his audience but rather challenges them – making the comparison to Brancusi not so odd after all.