Žan Kobal —
design, writting and recearch


selected work





     chair 001

selected writing     
    On Memory and Materiality
     Design, Designs
    The Difficult Heritage Of A Broken Past




For video previews please contact via email.

Nostalgia For A World That Never Existed





steel, rocks, TV-screens, headphones

Contemporary geopolitics indicate that primordial conceptions of nations reproduce exclusionary frameworks that are no longer capable of expressing the complexities of contemporary identities. These ideas, the ideas of nationalism are not so much sustained through explicit ideological exhortation, but through implicit, repetitive, and symbolic reinforcement.

Through 6 videos, the project examines landscapes as vernacular artefacts and follows the different roles they play in the construction of national canons. Act I looks at the impact of a new culture entering a landscape and its political implications. Act II looks at how through time these new landscapes become appropriated and in Act III how their histories and origins get neutralized through cultural production. Finally Act IV scrutinizes the weaponization of national canons in nationalist rhetoric.

The project uses narrative power of design to create new mythologies around our material culture and reveal a history of a world in flux. A world where primordial conceptions of nations are foundational, not fundamental and where contemporary cultures emerge over time through social exchange. Rather than burning bridges with history, it examines and unfolds the complexities of cultural cannons, digging up denied aspects of the past.

The project is supported by a thesis titled ‘(E)MERGING IDENTITIES’ exploring the intersection of design, art and national identity. Focusing on on nationalist rhetoric perpetuating an image of a past existing in apparent isolation, the thesis uncovers neglected histories of internal diversity and transnational networks that constitute the national.

Act I

Politics of Craft & Still Life


Act I looks at a new culture entering a landscape and its political implications. Shot entirely in rural Slovenia, the video explores a bamboo forest growing in its untamed primordial landscape. Rather than examining it from a distance, the video engages with the bamboo through local craft, putting into question the ideologies surrounding the apparent immutable nature of ancestral landscapes.

Act II

Neither Here & Neither Ther e


Act II looks at how through time these newly formed landscapes become ideologically appropriated. As tulip fields proliferate in the Dutch landscape they are used in promotional videos and are framed as unique to the Netherlands. A compilation of these is juxtaposed with footage of Turkish tulip fields, with each scene exactly matched, blurring the geographical lines and merging the two cultures into one.




Act III explores how the histories and origins of contemporary landscapes get neutralized through cultural production. Exploring sixteen century Dutch flower still lives, not many flowers are native to the region. Yet the still life itself was positioned as quintessentially Dutch, enabling the cultural neutralization and localization of foreign elements, cementing their place within the Dutch domestic landscape.

Act IV



Act IV scrutinizes the weaponization of national canons in nationalist rhetoric. While not inherently bad, when craf and tradition is talked about in the western world, it is often used to uphold and legitimize antiquated ideas of a “once great past”, a fictional time of prosperity and peace.