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Exercises in Making: Plastic waste, Domestic tools, Paper objects #1
Premise for an exhibition/project (rejected/pending) proposal
Living in an urban city, it is not as easy for us to find raw materials to work with, they are either sold at high costs, in bulk, or at inconvenient prices. The regular design/art student today probably find their ‘raw’ materials from shops and malls that provide them (though limited in range and quality) in manageable sizes and prices, sometimes too manageable. (When do we make our pigments, source for wood, or build our tools?) With the continuous advancement and efficiency in production and dissemination of goods and services, access to raw materials is not going to get easier. The inability and inexperience to work with materials is not entirely the responsibility of the blamed, but a result of larger market/societal shifts that the ones doing the blaming are heavily part of. So the result is this: we are now alienated from the ability to produce, construct, and arguably, live 'independently'. Our lives are heavily dependent on the market forces that drives ‘living’ itself (just look at magazines that teaches us how to live, from food to interiors to technology). And design can no longer separate itself from market demands, and terms like human-centred design might just be attempts to neutralise this reality by adding on more market-driven terms.
As frustrated designer-researchers, or simply human beings living amidst these conditions, we are interested (if not desperate) to find alternative/possible activities of the designer that falls outside of the commercial demands but yet find its place in everyday living. We ask the question: how can we live, or should we live and to what extent (which is key), independent of these capitalist driven behaviours, patterns and consumption, most of the time disguised as harmless, even expected ways of living. The expenditures for elaborate wedding banquets, mandatory gifts during celebratory seasons, or merely the consumption of designer-items, are all monetary exchanges that eventually contribute more and more to the forces that govern its production, at the same time ensures its consumption.
Exercises in Making responds to these conditions and proposes or speculates, in small ways, alternatives in the production of everyday objects. What materials do we have easy access to that could become ‘raw materials’ for making? What tools and spaces of production do we already have that we can also handle with decent proficiency? What other modes of communication and distribution is possible beyond common marketing efforts, commercial spaces, and monetary exchanges? In addressing these questions within the listed limitations, various methods of appropriation and ‘misuse’ are employed to work with found/abandoned items and post-consumer waste.
This exhibition proposal is the first exercise of the project, Plastic waste, Domestic tools, Paper objects #1. Although ongoing, it has amounted to a good number of explorations and outcomes which we hope to put out to the public, and especially designers, as the first engagement with introductory ideas on ‘making’ as a critical form of activity. What will be presented are paper objects made from simple production processes and tools that took place in a space no larger than a room, forming a total of 80 objects with sizes ranging from 3 x 3 cm to 35 x 50 cm. These objects are made of waste prints and paper collected from the everyday, shredded documents and used post-it notes from offices, envelopes, brochures and catalogues received or collected from shops, or the assortment of print/paper waste common to every home. The paper objects are produced in small quantities using a home blender, plastic waste (as moulds), and a simple mesh held together by a wooden frame. They are neither consistently mass-produced nor made by hand in one-off pieces, hence occupying and perhaps addressing the gap between industrial design and skilled craft. How might such a position negotiate between hand-made romanticism and technological optimism?
The ideas here are in many ways larger than what can be communicated through the objects alone but we have no intention of limiting them only to what is immediately obvious. The process and outcomes of this first exercise are embodiments of much larger issues that we hope to discuss, if not address through this exhibition. In some ways (elaborated more through texts accompanying the work/exhibition), these objects will be a light form of critique on existing efforts in ‘making’ that addresses similar concerns, and on the systematisation of everyday life that the design discipline, along with people and their built environment, are ‘forced’ to work with.
Baudrillard, Jean. System of Objects. Verso, 2005.
Brandes, Uta, Sonja Stich, and Miriam Wender. Design by Use: The Everyday Metamorphosis of Things.Basel; Boston: Birkhäuser, 2009.
Harrod, Tanya. The Real Thing: Essays on Making in the Modern World. London: Hyphen Press, 2015.
Holt, Steven, Skov, Mara. Manufractured: The Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2008.