Design Academy Eindhoven's Milan exhibition has a petting zoo
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Design Academy Eindhoven's Milan exhibition includes a petting zoo and a vagina mirror

Milan 2016: in response to the "overwhelming presence of technology" in today's society, Design Academy Eindhoven students have created an exhibition in Milan featuring objects and installations that are all designed to be touched.

Touch Base exhibition by Design Academy Eindhoven at Milan design week 2016 installation

The Touch Base exhibition was curated by London designer Ilse Crawford, and is filled with pieces each aiming to reconnect visitors with tactility.

Touch Base exhibition by Design Academy Eindhoven at Milan design week 2016 installation

"Behavioural psychologists argue that touch is more than just an optional sensation, it is a basic human need, and perhaps even the essence of life," said Crawford and co-curator Thomas Widdershoven. "Without touch we are left vulnerable – physically unsure and emotionally insecure."

Touch Base exhibition by Design Academy Eindhoven at Milan design week 2016 installation

"Touch Base explores the counter-movement that many of our students are shaping in response to the empowering, but overwhelming presence of technology and digitalism," added Widdershoven, who is also the school's creative director. "It reveals their hunger for a more tactile surrounding in an era where screens, apps, texts, games and email dictate how we live and communicate."

On arrival at the exhibition, visitors are met with a small petting zoo designed by secon-d and third-year students and tutors.

Touch Base exhibition by Design Academy Eindhoven at Milan design week 2016 installation

The petting zoo, which includes cockerels, goats and sheep, aims to investigate the boundary-shifts between nature and technology and the effects of touch on people and animals.

Touch Base exhibition by Design Academy Eindhoven at Milan design week 2016 installation

The main exhibition takes place inside a barn-like space cordoned off by dark curtains. To enter, visitors must walk down a bark path lined with boxes of textured materials.

Touch Base exhibition by Design Academy Eindhoven at Milan design week 2016 installation

Inside, a collection of projects by Design Academy Eindhoven graduates include a set of tableware made from milk, an interactive stone and a vagina mirror.

Touch Base exhibition by Design Academy Eindhoven at Milan design week 2016 installation

Designed by Micele Degen, the Vulsa Versa mirror aims to eradicate taboos surrounding intimate female areas.

Vulva Versa by Michele Degen
Vulva Versa by Michèle Degen aims to eradicate taboos surrounding intimate female areas

Questioning why women still feel ashamed of their genitals, Degan created a curved hand-held mirror that would encourage them to better-engage with their own body.

Designers are increasingly addressing issues surrounding body image. Debora Dax aimed to highlight the subject by creating underwear adorned with artificial pubic hair and a skirt padded to look like love handles, while Imme van der Haak printed photos of people onto silk shrouds so that the wearer's image is overlaid with someone else's face and body.

Forest Wool by Tamara Orjolo
Forest Wool by Tamara Orjola explores the many uses of waste pine needles leftover from felled trees

Although some of the projects on show in the Design Academy Eindhoven explore tactility in relation to body image, other students focused on linking a general demise in tactile interactions with an increase in our carbon footprints.

A Story About a Pine Tree by Sarmīte Poļakova. Photograph by Lisa Klappe
A Story About a Pine Tree by Sarmīte Poļakova uses pine bark to create a leather-like material. Photograph by Lisa Klappe

A project by Latvian designer Tamara Orjola explores the many uses of waste pine needles leftover from felled trees.

Imprint of Skin by Floor van Doremalen
Imprint of Skin materials by Floor van Doremalen are designed to give "super-sensory impulses" to the body

"I started investigating forgotten plants, and what plants used to be, and I found that the pine tree was really interesting as it used to be used for remedies, medicine, and to build homes and furniture," she told Dezeen.

Tactile Corpuscules by Sanne Muiser
Tactile Corpuscules by Sanne Muiser are made by needle-punching natural materials such as wool and sisal into a man-made latex base

"Nowadays, it's only valuable for the timber," she continued. "It's also the most common tree in Europe, there are around 600 million pine trees felled each year. Wood is used, branches are used, but the needles aren't used at all."

Urtica by Nina Gautier
Urtica by Nina Gautier explores nettle's potential for textiles

Orjola began experimenting with the needles, and developed a fibre extraction method using steam. She then transformed the extracted fibres into paper, textiles and a composite material for the furniture industry.

S-Pot by Maddalena Selvini
S-Pot by Maddalena Selvini is a range of heat-holding vessels and objects made from soapstone

Russian designer Ekaterina Semenova also explored the reinterpretation of waste products, and her work displays the effects of different dairy products when used as a glaze on ceramics.

Care for Milk by Ekaterina Semenova
Care for Milk by Ekaterina Semenova is a series of ceramic objects made using leftover dairy products

Other projects in the exhibition range from a series of textiles designed to imprint on the skin, to a stool made from baked earth.

Soilid by Erez Nevi Pana
Soilid by Erez Nevi Pana is a material made from combining soil, fungi and other natural materials like sugar

Last year's Design Academy Eindhoven exhibition was named Eat Shit, where projects on show included a mummified poo, intestine-shaped bread and a Portaloo festooned with flowers.

Iota by Valentin Von Klot-Heydenfeldt. Photograph by Mischa Haller
Iota by Valentin Von Klot-Heydenfeldt is a stool based on molecules. Photograph by Mischa Haller

Widdershoven told Dezeen that the school has undergone a "paradigm shift" with students now more interested in responding to real-world problems than making beautiful objects for collectors.

Brick & Sand Oven by Pieter Städler. Photograph by Lisa Klappe
Brick & Sand Oven by Pieter Städler is a compact fire oven designed for outdoor cooking. Photograph by Lisa Klappe

Other recent projects by the school's graduates include a sex toy with a bright pink torso that can be mounted like a vaulting horse, a communal meeting space to help break down barriers between refugees and local communities in Holland, and a virtual reality shopping centre that allows users to commission bespoke objects.

Felt Like a Sheep by Guilhem de Cazenove
Felt Like a Sheep by Guilhem de Cazenove is mobile wool processing unit designed to revalue fleece, which has become a by-product of milk and meat

Touch Base is on show during Milan design week from 12 to 17 April at Laundry House, Via Cletto Arrighi 10.

Other exhibitions taking place during the city-wide event include Nike's Nature of Motion installations by ten international designers, and The Shit Evolution showcase of products made from recycled poo. Check out Dezeen's guide to 10 unmissable exhibitions and installations at Milan design week 2016 »