Nebil Zaman on lifting found objects out from digital space

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In the work of Norwegian designer and artist Nebil Zaman, objects found in digital space are materialized and turned into unusual furniture and objects - sometimes with an almost otherworldly touch. We have met Nebil at his space at the Kroloftet Makers Space in Oslo to learn more about his work with found objects - digital and physical.

You were originally trained to be a cabinet maker, how did you decide to build on that with a bachelor in design at KHiO (Oslo National Academy of the Arts)?

Nebil —

Honestly - I started mostly to get access to the workshops. I had planned on keeping up with my work as before, but things developed and I became more interested in the conceptual aspect of things.

And somehow things sort of fell into place a bit out of the blue. I applied to the DOGA awards with my project “Personal Space”, which was one of the first projects I ever did at Kunsthøgskolen, and won. I believe this gave me confidence that I could actually make stuff, from concept to end-product. That changed things, and I think I became somewhat more ambitious and that it broadened my horizon of the field.

Personal space hovedbilde 01 lukasz zamaro

“Personal Space” (2016). The wooden bench has sliding seats, letting its users easily negotiate the proximity to a neighbour by moving closer or far away. Photo: Lucaz Zamaro

Your present work is quite far removed from traditional furniture. How are these almost alien looking artefacts coming into this world?

Nebil —

My process these days usually starts digitally. I sketch freely in Rhino until I come to something that I like or think is interesting. Other times I download 3D models of various objects online that are posted for free download. Once I have decided to create an object, I prepare the files by sectioning them in 2D. I use the laser cutter and/or CNC milling cutter to cut out the parts. I put all the parts together so that I am left with a three-dimensional object.

This acts as a fixture to build plaster around. I use regular cast plaster which I mix with wood glue. I also use synthetic plaster if the construction is complicated and needs more strength. I build many thin layers of plaster until I am satisfied and I also plan to plan some surfaces with a rasp and sand with sandpaper. When the object is completely dry, I surface-treated with, among other things, linseed oil or varnish.


So perhaps you could say that you are bringing digital objects that were modeled on real life objects - out from digital space into the real world again? How do you see the continuation of this work? Are there particular fields that you would like to investigate in the extension of this?

Nebil —

Yes. I think is interesting but also maybe a bit strange that the objects made for “virtual space” or the “metaverse” is mostly representations of physical “meatspace” objects. In a virtual space there is no physical laws. We could make objects or furniture that would not be possible in a physical world. But still most of the stuff (3D cad objects) I find on the internet are representations of familiar physical objects.

I guess is quite hard for us to imagine new things without any references. At least that’s the case for me. But I am aware of it and trying to find ways to overcome this barrier.

This is in a way the reason i download 3D objects and play around with them and make them into physical objects. I don’t think it would be possible for me to create some of my works by just imagination or make sketches in advance. The next logical step for me would be to put back the objects that I’ve downloaded and materialized onto the virtual space. From there other people or I could rework them and explore new possibilities.


How is working in a collective environment and at the Kroloftet maker space affecting your work?

Nebil —

Kroloftet has been a great place to work. At KHiO we had access to great workshops and could work with many types of materials. After my graduation I didn’t have a clue what to do. But I found out about Kroloftet and started renting a small space and got access to the workshops. In places like kroloftet you meet a lot of people with different backgrounds and knowledge. I had many great conversations with people during my years there and I’m sure that has affected my work in some way.


You are currently working with a project that aims to let young people try work at the Kroloftet maker-space. Could you tell us more about that?

Nebil —

Yes. It is basically a project letting youths between 16-20 years having their first job experiences. It is a project on the district level, and we organized the project on Kroloftet. They get to do everything from painting to simple carpentry jobs, contributing to the finalizing at the new Kroloftet building.

Now that Kroloftet is close to finished we are looking into creating new work-tasks to continue the project. Sometimes the youths have been contacted by people from the space wishing to use them in other projects as well.

A really nice way to engage them in a field they might not otherwise have been introduced to in other words!

Nebil —

Yes. I do not see myself first and foremost necessarily an activist per se, but it is a very nice bonus to be able to do something meaningful for others through the work that I do.

Learn more about Nebil at - and be sure to follow him on Instagram here.

Nebil’s work is currently on display at the Side Gallery in Barcelona. In November 2021 he will show work at the collective “I møte med veggen” (“Meeting the wall”) exhibition at the Sorgenfri gallery in Oslo.


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