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"social design" Category


a plastic world


Sunday, February 18, 2018

When you look around in the modern world, the plastic materials by which it is formed are inevitable to the eye.
From everyday objects like the interior of households and infrastructural facilities to the sex industry and medical surgery, synthetics have become a big part of humans and the human/animal world.
But how did this came to be and what will the future be of this plastic world with its benefits and downsides.

 

alexander farkefarkesine

(left- Alexander Parkes, right- Parkesine objects ) 

 

Before plastic became fully synthetic in the way we know it nowadays, cellulose found in plants was the base material for the discovery of modern plastics.
This discovery was made in 1862 by Alexander Parkes who invented the material he named “Parkesine“.
Parkesine was made from in alcohol dissolved nitrocellulose mixed with oil or camphor wax which created a transparent, moldable material which maintained shape after cooling down.
Therefore it was used to make things like combs, stamps, and buttons.
The American brothers Hyatt picked-up this idea and created a variation of this Parkesine in 1869 they named celluloid by pulverizing camphor an nitrocellulose separately, adding pigments to the nitrocellulose, after mixing it was pressurized to remove water and then molded with extreme heat.
It was used as a replacement for ivory, specifically ivory billiard balls.
Celluloid became a great success and eventually made it possible for the film industry to be born.

 

celluloid film   bakelite factory

(left-celluloid film, right-bakelite factory)

 

These two inventions can be seen as the ancestors of the modern plastic society, nevertheless, it only came to be because of the first fully synthetic plastic, meaning no molecules that can be found in nature are used.
This first fully synthetic plastic was called Bakelite.
Invented in 1907 in the USA by Leo Baekeland in the search for a synthetic insulator, he found a way to control the condensation reaction of a phenol-formaldehyde mixture and stop this reaction while remaining liquid.
This could be formed into different stages with stage A, the first stage, directly making it into usable plastic.
Stage B, making it into a solid state with the possibility to make it into powder and soften it with heat.
Stage C is where stage A or B are being heated under pressure and the result of this is what he called Bakelite.
Bakelite appeared to be a perfectly suited material for the purpose of insulation as it was heat resistant and could be manufactured in mass-production as it could be molded quickly.

This last fact and the fact that it was fully synthetic opened the doors to a world of mass-produced synthetics, the plastic world we live in.
Soon new materials followed this creation with the invention of polystyrene in 1929 (used for electronics like refrigerators, microwaves and tv, medical equipment and packaging), polyester in 1930 (used for clothing), polyvinylchloride (PVC) (used for pipes, electrical insulation and clothing) and nylon in 1935 (mostly used for clothing and parachutes).

 

parachutes-255791 platsic fabriek

(left-nylon parachute, right-plastic mass-production)
During the 30′s of the 20th century, these synthetic products were seen as extremely glamorous and beautiful but still, all these materials did not completely infiltrate society during that time.
While used for a lot of military equipment during the second world war, synthetic products really became part of everyday life after the end of the war when the manufacturers of plastic products had to find a way to stay in the business and therefore aim at people and everyday life. Because of the low price, moldability and the way it could be mass-produced, it is not more than logical that plastic became such a big leading part of the capitalist consumer society.

Gueules cassees, Soldiers with severe facial injuries, First World War (photo)  brazil85

 (left- WW1 plastic surgery, right-plastic surgery movie brazil1985 )

 

Like the plastics, humans are moldable as well, changing along with new inventions. During the same period as the development of synthetics, doctors were forced to find a way to repair the extreme damage done to soldiers during the first world war.
Never before had there been so many heavily wounded soldiers whom all needed treatment for their facial wounds, burns and lost limbs and with the development of anesthetics, surgeons could develop new techniques without the patients experience pain during this operation.
Yet the use of plastic surgery for the beauty industry really kicked off in the 1950′s when the first breast implants were used to enlarge the female breasts.
This was done by injecting it with the liquid, synthetic plastic called silicone and in the 60′s by implanting a bag-like version.
In the 70′s liposuction (removing fat) was developed and not long after that botox was tested on humans for the first time.
Botox temporarily relaxes and smoothes wrinkles by blocking signals from the nerve to the muscles, this gives the user a smooth, young and Barbie-like face.
With this slow infiltration of plastics into the human body, the birth of the plastic human became a fact.
Largely stimulated and promoted by the cosmetic glamour industry.

 

platsic waste plastic ocean

(left- plastic waste mountain, right- plastic ocean)

Due to this rise of plasticity, synthetics slowly took over the world.
The waste created by the plastic consumer society has already created big islands in the ocean intervening with the animal and human world, fish-eating tiny plastic particles, humans eating fish.
Entering our body through food and cosmetic products, plastics are now even detectable in our blood influencing our hormones.
Humans becoming deformed from natural appearance due to cosmetic surgery in their striving for perfection, plastics infiltrating our body and system and the extreme use of plastic products in modern life could in my opinion only lead to the beginning of a more extreme, new plastic human being disbanded from its nature.

floris Voor

(left/right- Floris chair)

To me the in 1968 made Floris chair by Günter Beltzig, which was the starting point for this research, is the perfect example of what has happened and may come.
This chair is made out of fiber reinforced plastic and molded into an alienated human shape which could only have happened because of all the developments and inventions mentioned in the first paragraphs of this research.
The shape of the chair gives the impression that it is a plasticized human being or at least that it is made for such a human, as it seems to be made for a specific kind of person.
Like with the shoe of Cinderella, it should fit perfectly to be a match and not to lose all its comfort.
Is it not possible that it is the plastic ‘perfect’ human of the future who will fit perfectly in this piece of furniture, alienated from his natural self in its plastic world.

 

plastic man  perfect human

 

Community to change the system


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dave Hakkens creates machines to recycle plastic. The concept Precious Plastic is that everywhere, everybody can build themselves these machines and recycle their plastics. For me, the most interesting point in this concept is the community around it. He says

“To start up an idea is a powerful tool to use these days. A designer is able to bring people together by just sharing an idea or a potential solution.”

 

Dave Hakkens and his projects are accessible in two points.

Most of his design projects are often provides with open-source instruction videos and blueprints, so it is presenting as a do it yourself project. You can inform yourself, make your own machine or your design object, share on social network, and use it. Make and use these projects is to be active to change the system, and be a designer as well.

Furthermore, he is very active on social networks. On YouTube (with 122 000 followers), he often published videos to clearly explain his projects, how to make it etc. But also he has a certain way of life that you can clearly see in his videos called Story Hopper.

or an other link:  here.

If I had the opportunity to talk to Dave, I would ask him if he thinks that in addition to this solution to reduce plastics wastes we also must have to adopt a minimalist and zero waste attitude. For me, the series Story Hopper highlights this way of thinking because he gives advice on how to consume and act more responsibly. These videos fit perfectly with the sharing of opinions and go further with the ideas that he wants to present. He offers more than just designers content while playing with the border of social network influencers.

Also on his website, you can find the forum where you can talk with people around the world. It’s nice to see all these people who said « I want to recycle plastics but I don’t know where or how to start » Finally I understood that in this big community, some other little communities are created to make projects easier. On the topic, someone answer: « try to find people, and build an association or something with many people to reduce costs!»

 

expo_02_1100
V3 Exhibition during the Dutch Design Week

 

I am wondering how this concept can grow and evolve in the rest of the world. Are social media enough to share his ideas? The definition of the word community by the Oxford dictionary is: the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common“. 

Dave Hakkens and his projects are accessible for those who know him and who share the same interests. Plastic machines were at first introduced in a museum as an exhibition because Dave Hakkens is at first a designer. So a certain public is interested to see it and in this kind of place, it does not have the same purpose. It is difficult to apply something that you just saw in a museum. You can maybe just except to have a discussion but not really a revolution. What effect would he have if he presents his project in a hardware store? The visitors of both places are different and they are mostly not looking for the same interest. So I am wondering about the accessibility if Dave wants that everyone can build those machines and change the system. For me, to imagine the Precious Plastic project in a context more realistic like the hardware store allows more an action than a proposition that we can not touch and allows a wider impact on the population.

 

I discovered the work of Dave Hakkens thanks to my sculpture class at the Rietveld Academie. Indeed, some students were able to create two of his plastic machines: the injection and the extrusion machine. I spoke with one of these students and she gave me an interesting reflection: « He says that everyone can build those machines, it works for us because we are in art school, so we have all the materials needed and we always can find a way to be creative with the plastic machine, but I am not sure it’s the same in poorer countries, because it has a cost and maybe they did not hear about the Precious Plastic project».

It was quite complicated for students to build these plastic machines because some pieces were difficult to find, expensive, and a lot of detours at the metal workshop were needed. Finally, it took 6 months to complete the injection machine and the extrusion machine is still in construction.

 

 

PLASTIC MACHINE             Injection
Injection machine in the Rietveld (Left beginning of the construction, Right the electronics part has been added)

 

Dave Hakkens went in 2015 to Ghana for research to help the poorest countries to access the construction of plastic machines. As we could experiment at the Rietveld, this needs a lot of resources (internet or specific stores to buy the pieces) and money. But this visit to Ghana shows us that even recycling machines can be an option and it is not necessary to have money. They found machines which are made to press the juice out of fruits which are very similar to the extrusion machine, in this way they were able to reuse these machines as an extrusion machine with a little bit of do-it-yourself.  Also just a few weeks ago, he shipped a big container to the Maldives to clean ocean. However, the help of Dave Hakkens is still necessary to implement these solutions at first. Then, after his visit to Ghana, the local population can be more aware and autonomous to recycle plastic.

The fact that Dave Hakkens brings container is important because “the risk” of this way of building plastic machines is to build them for a personal use or very restrained, as the weekend handyman in his garage. Containers, places of many workshops to recycle plastics, can expand the utilization and bring a lot of people to work together. Indeed, it can not be an activity in its own right, but it should really be part of our way of life and as we can not spend our time recycling plastic. We may wonder if this community of active people is enough? What about the big industries? 

In fact, there is a start-up called The Plastik Bank which collaborates with the big industries. Plastic waste that invades the poorer regions of the world is collected by local people and then sold to companies that recycle it. But in the end, Dave Hakkens gives the opportunity to communities to create something with plastic, be autonomous in the research and win money (if they decide to) as part of the process. It is really like building something new, maybe a new society.

 

To say goodbye one more very interesting article on other people who tried to find solutions for plastic wastes. 

Is there anything to rely on?


Thursday, November 30, 2017

 It is quite common to notice that we have been focusing on automatizing, and motorising any of our work related physical efforts. As for example, the number of workers in a factory has nothing to do with what it was 30 years ago, and also nothing to do with what it was 100 years ago, and it hasn’t increased for sure. As a paradoxical consequence (that can have also other different causes), it is also amusing to observe that in order to stay healthy, more and more people start to work out, going at the gym. The gym has even become a social environment, where people share their tips and advice, and help one another reaching his goal of physical performance.

 This is what Melle Smets points out in his project: the human power plant. The thing is that according to this “gym” trend, the energy that we produce with our physical efforts nowadays is completely wasted, as we only see it as muscle training; we don’t run on the treadmill to make cold water hot but to get a nice ass. It seems unnecessary to develop how a nice butt is useful to sustain life.  Anyway, all of these machines that are handling so much effort could actually stock the energy to use it afterwards. The human power plant project is a proposal of the use of human physical effort to create the energy that we require in our daily life. In their first case study, they planned a conversion of one building of the Utrecht University into a 100% human-powered student house. On the other hand, in its concrete realisation, the project is still quite utopic or futuristic, as the prototypes are for the moment only to charge a phone or a laptop, and the latest to heat a Jacuzzi…

Designblog

 Going back to human attitude towards effort optimisation, we can also to a certain point qualify this quest for automatizing and motorising any work related effort, as the natural egocentric human condition of wanting to do what we want, and not being a machine, or not being a clone. It can also be directly linked with artistic activity, in a way that it commonly comes from us wanting to get something out of what we think is our singular identity or thoughts. Or the link could also be that art is commonly/traditionally seen as completely useless, when artists are the most passionate about their job. Wouldn’t it mean that we just want to make ourselves useless? We could argue in this way to conclude that we obviously live to die. But then, why not act as a mere gear in this gigantic mechanic world? We can observe to confirm what was said before a relentless research to motorise the perpetual motion we live in, with very contrasted fields of research like Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla, or more recently Theo Jansen. Of course, their views on this topic are all very different, and even how they consider or see this topic varies. For example, Theo Jansen’s approach absolutely didn’t think of the “perpetual motion motor” side of his creation, he just wanted to create life. And even if the approach has to be understood sometimes in a metaphorical way so it doesn’t become contradictory, these enormous solitary creatures wandering on the beach are tightly close to have the possibility of being independent and to continue living eating wind to make their hundred legs move. So here we see that the difference is about what could be qualified as the artistic approach, that the function of the energy is not necessarily to use for us humans but just to contemplate. In a way, the only energy a perpetual motion motor/generator distributes is to itself, and we can only watch the wheel turn.

 Switching back to Melle Smets, the goal here is not to make a wheel turn on its own. The social and cultural context is privileged, and the aim is to make people self-sufficient in what they require concerning energy; we are the perpetual motion machines. It’s interesting to see, that most of the creators, to find a solution to how to produce energy, will try to find or invent something that is not there or that is not known. And they often argue that the world is your oyster, there are so many things outside that we can take advantage from. What is interesting and funny is to see that after thousands of years of trying to widen the distance between our own self and energy production, there is an actual proposal of an alternative where it is ourselves that we can the most directly take advantage from.

The concept is not even this innovative, in a way that we have always been producing energy with our efforts. Actually we don’t even have a choice not to and it is all we will be doing our whole life. Following this alternative perspective’s idea is tending to not only make us self-sufficient but also self-reliable and as a consequence disciplined. Just like a child to who we don’t learn to become autonomous by providing anything that he would need or want to not think about how he could do it himself. We can notice that nowadays, energy like electricity is so much a part of our daily life norm that having lamps in any room of a house is completely natural whereas a house without any would be linked to a spooky fictional movie. We don’t show to the children what electricity is and can do, we just tell them to not put their fingers in the plug. The point is that what we have to do to start, is to make ourselves reconnect to what we essentially do need in our life. Where does it come from, and how can we get it, (energy wise of course, I wasn’t talking about love).

designblog2

Wij de cirkel


Thursday, November 30, 2017

200.000 Jaar geleden ontstond ‘de moderne mens’ (Homo Sapien). In de voorbije jaren zijn we geëvolueerd tot een rechtoplopend, rationeel, gemoderniseerd wezen. Goed? Slecht? Voor allebei valt iets te zeggen. Maar een feit is dat we, met name de laatste paar eeuwen, een extreme focus hebben op ‘groei’, ‘verder gaan’, ‘slimmer worden’ en veelal ‘rijker worden’. Allen op zich niet per definitie ‘slecht’, echter wel wanneer je dit bekijkt vanuit het oogpunt van het heden en de omgang met en staat van de aarde en het milieu. En daarbij zit de mens en zijn welzijn automatisch inbegrepen.

Duurzaamheid, circulariteit, systeemverandering, het is nodig dat we daar bewust van worden en meer nog dat we er ook gehoor aan geven; het systeem drastisch veranderen.

Hoe? Ja, een vraag waar nog geen eenduidig antwoord op is, en waarschijnlijk ook niet op komen gaat. Wel is het mogelijk dat we het systeem als geheel in onze manier van denken veranderen, waarbij vooruitgang en groei automatisch geassocieerd wordt met duurzaamheid, circulariteit en ‘onderdeel zijn van de natuur, de aarde en het universum’.

Deze volledige omwenteling van patronen in het denken en doen ontstaat enkel door simpelweg ‘te beginnen’. En wel bij jezelf. Zodat van hieruit langzaam maar zeker door de tijd heen deze olievlek uitvloeit en uiteindelijk ‘de totale mensheid’ heeft overgenomen.

Nu is deze olievlek de laatste jaren al langzaam iet wat aan het uitvloeien, wat een onwijs goed begin is; het bewustzijn wordt groter, meer mensen starten hun projecten, acties en groeperingen om dit bewustzijn om te zetten in handelen en inmiddels komen meer en meer ideeën en kennis de wereld in om het systeem te veranderen.

Tjeerd Veenhoven, is zo’n olie druppel die gelooft in dit uitvloeien en is begonnen met projecten waarin circulariteit van natuur-materiaal, behoud van natuur, duurzaamheid, tegengaan van verspilling, het welzijn van de mens en het terugdringen van milieuvervuiling en de opwarming van de aarde centraal staan. Middels kunst, design en mode brengt hij zijn gedachtegoed én toepassing de wereld in, wat een directe verbinding legt tussen de mensen en deze ‘systeemverandering’. Ik geloof erin dat dit de beste manier is om bewustzijn over deze onderwerpen (en daarbinnen te laten zien dat deze idealen en dromen omgezet kunnen worden in realiteit) te creëren en op die manier de snelste weg zullen zijn naar het ook daadwerkelijk handelen en toepassen van deze idealen en dus naar totale systeemverandering.

Met name het ‘algenproject‘ van Tjeerd verwonderde mij ontzettend (gezien in Boijmans van Beuningen museum, tentoonstelling Change The System). Dit project was voor mij de aanleiding tot het schrijven van dit stuk. Met dit algenproject maakt hij een fantastische link tussen klimaat- en duurzaamheidsproblematiek, de samenleving en het creëren van bewustzijn.  Op een zeer toegankelijke wijze kaart hij tegelijkertijd twee problemen aan: duurzaamheid binnen de mode-industrie, een industrie waar iedereen gebruik van maakt, en de exorbitante groei van algen, een natuurlijk product dat veel mogelijkheden en voordelen in zich draagt, maar nu als probleem gezien wordt. Met zijn project, waarbij hij textieldraad maakt uit algen, maakt hij, door een koppeling te leggen tussen twee problemen, een oplossing voor beide issues -geeft hij hier zelfs een meerwaarde aan; geeft hij de problemen een verrijking- én biedt hij mogelijkheden en inzichten tot systeemverandering, oa omdat dit project een metafoor zou kunnen zijn voor veel grotere onderwerpen en oplossingsgericht en idealistisch denken. Want dit project is in uitkomst wellicht vrij gericht; in manier van denken en het aanpakken van deze in het fundament grootse problemen is dit een onwijs sterk, breed en essentieel project.

Al lang droom ik over mijn eigen oliedruppel die de olievlek verder zal doen vloeien. Net als Tjeerd Veenhoven wil ik dit gedachtegoed de wereld in krijgen en laten zien dat mijn dromen wezenlijk kunnen worden en daarmee dus ook bij anderen systeemverandering mogelijk is.

https://www.omropfryslan.nl/data/files/imagenodes/claudy_1.jpeg

Work in progress of Claudy in the library of Philadelphia in America

Een grote inspiratiebron voor mij en mijn droom was Claudy Jongstra, een Nederlandse (vilt)kunstenares-textielontwerper. Zij gaat nog een stap verder dan Tjeerd. Zij (en haar ‘team’) probeert het bewustzijn te vergroten en haar idealen om te zetten door de levenswijze ook daadwerkelijk anders in te richten. Ik heb met haar contact gezocht om mij op deze wijze meer in haar werk en ideeën te verdiepen. Een aangenaam mailcontact en mooie ideeën als gevolg. Wegens tijdoverwegingen en drukte was het niet mogelijk haar ‘commune’ te bezoeken of een samenwerking aan te gaan, echter heb ik mij wel meer verdiept in wat zij doen en hoe, ook op die manier geïnspireerd te raken en mijn eigen plannen en ideeën concreter te maken. Claudy en haar team combineren namelijk kunst en natuur op een behoorlijk ver doorgevoerde wijze; ze hebben een ‘boerderij‘ opgezet waar creativiteit, duurzaamheid, natuur, ambachten, lokaliteit en circulariteit centraal staan en worden samengevoegd. Zo verbouwen ze onder anderen hun eigen planten voor het verven van de wol (van eigen schaapskudde) voor Claudy’s viltkunstwerken, gebruiken ze de klei uit de grond voor keramiekprojecten, begeleiden ze jongeren (met een achterstand) en kunst- en designstudenten van over de hele wereld en verbouwen ze op biodynamische wijze hun eigen voedsel. Op deze manier is er op micro- en macroniveau een circulaire beweging gaande binnen deze commune. Erg interessant hierin is de koppeling van deze eigen idealen en projecten met ‘de buitenwereld’; het is niet enkel voor henzelf; er zit een ‘olievlek-streven’ in.

Er is namelijk duidelijk gestreefd naar een hoger doel: het bewustzijn vergroten over ‘hoe het ook kan’; over idealisme vs realisme. Hier een link naar hun projectplan, waarin heel duidelijk en goed omschreven is (voor diegenen die zich hierin zover interesseren) hoe zij dit alles samenbrengen en welke projecten ze op korte termijn organiseren om de samenleving hierin te betrekken. Interessant is dat er even sprake was een samenwerking met haar voor het Waste no Waste project in Groningen (mei/juni 2018), echter heb ik dit helaas moeten afwijzen ivm tijdkwesties.

Dit alles, het inspireert mij zo; laat mij dromen, borrelt de kriebels op om nóg een stap verder te gaan:

Het totaal incorporeren van circulariteit. Ik ben er mee bezig en het vormt een leidraad in mijn leven. Ik zoek naar het omzetten in realiteit. Een plek waar alles en iedereen een cirkel is. Het betreft een dorp, waar natuur met mens en leven samengaan; waar kunst met mens en leven samengaan. Hier volgt mijn vooruitzicht. Mijn pad, mijn droom, mijn geloof, mijn verleden dat het heden naar de toekomst brengt. Hier volgt mijn aller eerste in-een-notendop-conceptplan.

Ooit

Ben ik ik

Sta ik in een kring

Kringen om mij heen

Ben ik een kring


Zelfvoorzienend Ecodorp, tuinarchitectuur gewassen verbouwen

stap 1. ik zoek de wereld rond. naar een landje om te starten. aarde en water, bomen en lucht. hoor je de stilte? fluisterend naar de overkant. en dan weer terug. natuurlijk. een ronde cirkel.

stap 2. ik pak mijn houten bordje. plaats ‘m in het midden. ‘ik nodig alle ronde mensen uit. en iedereen die rond wil worden.’ dan draai ik om en neem mijn weg terug. natuurlijk. een circulaire weg.

stap 3. ik lach naar alle mensen. vraag ze met mij te komen. ben jij rond? of wil je dat worden? kom je dan met mij mee? zie je dat, eigenlijk willen we het allemaal. we klimmen op de benenwagen. langzaam maar gestaag. we reizen terug naar waar we van verlangen. natuurlijk. een verlangen is een cirkel.

Ecologische-waarde-van-Ecodorp-Boekel
Circulariteit binnen het reilen en zeilen van een ecodorp, verdeeld in drie diensten

stap 4. we laden onze benenwagen uit. potten pannen lepels en kannen. messen broeken jurken en doeken. naalden schroeven hamers en alles dat we nodig hebben om ons nog in het leven te vertoeven. natuurlijk. we hebben een cirkel.

stap 5. we stapelen het hout. mengen zand met paardenpoep. slaan een spijkertje waar nodig. verstevigen met steen. het stro dat wordt het dak. panelen van de zon  zoeken een weg de warmte door te geven. natuurlijk. een kringloop.

stap 6. ik scheer mijn schaapjes. heb ze oh zo lief. was de wol. roer het in de warme baden van de berkenbast. of het kurkuma van het boompje verderop. kneed het fijn tot kleden aan de muur. de schaapjes doen hun best en maken nieuwe haren aan. natuurlijk. een cirkel houdt nooit op.

ecodorp-bergen-plattegrond
Bestemmingsplan Ecodorp Bergen - Expliciet de verbinding en combinatie met kunst, cultuur, educatie en verbinding met de 'buitenwereld'.

stap 7. mijn buurman oogst zijn graan. bakt broden op het vuur. zijn buurvrouw droogt de thee, schildert met de kleuren van de tuin en hoort daarnaast ook nog de harten van de ouderen. kloppen ze nog wel? haar dochter bouwt de meubels. van eiken en mahonie. geeft les in ademhalen. en zo doet elk ronde wezen wat. natuurlijk. geven en nemen is een cirkel.

stap 8. de cirkel is open. lange mensen lopen langs en worden rond. er komt een huisje bij. en handen. een ziel een hoofd een hart. we worden wijzer en stiller. zoals dat gaat. alle handen maken samen.  natuurlijk. de cirkel wordt groter.

stap 9. ik zoek de wereld rond. nu in mijn ronde cirkeltje. verwelkom alle nieuwe ronde mensen. ik zie de cirkels en de kringen. hoor je de stilte? hij fluistert ‘ik ben zo blij, ik kan hier zijn!’. natuurlijk. we zijn een cirkel.

Scan 12 Nov 2017 at 13.44 page 6

Mijn eerste conceptplan betreffende de inrichting van 'het dorp'.

Thinking small, shrinking (hu)man ::


Thursday, November 30, 2017
 

 


How good is your zoom? please device-zoom in order to simulate
the viewing experience of a shrunken person :
 

Short people

Humans have been evolving, growing ever larger with no popular trends in the reverse. This movement is fueled by vast amounts of resources that the human being demands as it grows – things like energy, space, dairy and popular consumer goods. In turn immense costs are inflicted on the environment and fellow human beings, to get such produce on the shelves. This inherited idea that being taller is generally better is widespread in many societies and consequentially those in power tends to also be taller than average..

This collective drive is being fueled by vast utilizations of oh so precious resources that the human species demands as it grows – things like energy, space, dairy and other consumer goods. In turn the immense costs are let out on the environment and fellow human beings, to get such produce on the shelves. This inherited idea that being taller is generally better is widespread in many societies.

But in our time  this aged-old trend be upheld?

The song short people was released by the artist Paul Newman to popular though not universal acclaim in the 1977 with a satirist lyric mocking short people in the favor of the tall. This was quite very ridiculous but also funny, with many short people taking a liking to it on their own. I therefore decided that the opposite of the song, (offered above) should be created to switch the social experience. It’s another sign of the discrimination against short people which does not seem to have receded to this day and beckons the tall as the gold standard.

Throughout vast plains of the internet some attention are being paid to this perceived difference of social values in terms of height. Popular mass media provider Buzzfeed made videos highlighting the many boons of being on the short side (or tall for that matter), and many other accounts add to this. All the more reason to not assume that taller = more prestigious.

 

Short

Going against this widely held belief in the preferability of more height, Dutch designer Arne Hendriks proposes a reverse trend – to shrink. Currently Arne teaches at NextNature of TU Eindhoven, the Design Academy Eindhoven and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and apart from the Incredible Shrinking man is making on a Fatberg.

The Incredible Shrinking Man had, for the past eight years been proposing alternative possibilities diligently curated from all over the world and many specializations. The ultimate “theoretical” goal is to shrink the human average height to 50 centimeters, and greatly reduce the material demands that society consume. The endless litany of social observances and projects featured there offers wondrous though perhaps hard to implement promises to redesign human beings.

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This is a good opportunity to examine the role of a change maker – if it is indeed possible, and if so how can anyone bring about such a leviathan and un-instinctive changes to the world. Perhaps someone have a brilliant idea, but how then should they show and communicate it to the rest of the world. With this project, Hendriks chose to continue contributing to the development and contribution of this project for the past eight years. Through this sustained timeline, examples have emerged across time, culture and region to show that this thought has perhaps been something lurking in the back of our mind. From this unique body of research Hendriks, often referred to as an artist establish short term, pop up studios in art establishments that keeps evolving with a bigger body of research every time – the latest being Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and ‘invite’ visitor to fish through the considerable body of research including a wall of postcards each illustrating a small info.

 

Studio of suspended disbelief

There seems to be no clear connection from the project’s base in such white cube spaces to major established institutions, namely the government and commercial entities so one wonders how far can this idea go? However upon a closer look in the project’s heaps of documents lead to references to the real world abounds, with a prominent example of the Thai government’s policy to encourage the consumption of milk through its multi-state collaboration, the The Thai Danish dairy company. The government’s policy aimed for project growth of its younglings of 6cm for male, and a rather lesser 2cm extra for females. Hendrik’s admirable research length is able to uncover other unseen details of our society through his dedication to the Incredible Shrinking man. And he is not the only one doing something about it.

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Mass damon resized

 

This idea has also recently taken off on the Hollywood mainstream albeit in the form of a badly reviewed film, ‘Downsizing’ in which the development of new technology allow the protagonist to choose to downsize his to body to a tiny size, smaller than even a hand. The concept of shrink here is thus illustrated to the extreme, although it is important to note that even though one of the reasons to downsize in this film is impeding human devastation on the environments, which perhaps mirror the situation in our real world, Paul the lead character has another main factor to downsize, namely the financial perks of being able to spend more. His assets of $152,000 becomes a gargantuan $12m when converted and perhaps enable him to splurge and consume even more in a large estate. It is not surprising too that the film’s title of Downsizing alludes to the unsavory act of corporate efforts to cut cost and relief its employees. The notion of going small gains a comical element in Downsizing but nevertheless highlights the need for alternative ways to reduce our hazardous impact on the environment, large part of which are being fueled by the footprints of gigantic big corporates – whom dystopian downsized world has to deal with. The film’s little community worryingly mirror the flawed outside one.

The world is a complex place and being more mindful about the hidden details, whether it be the gargantuan, empirical human footprints on the environs which this day few can deny acknowledging these hidden worlds as Arne Hendrik’s incredible shrinking man project discover are vast and fascinating. Somehow this idea of an ongoing research that involves you, and invites all to add on, is very attractive. 

And who knows maybe you will now see more traces of going small in your life!  

P.S. If you’re interested in Arne’s approach to shrink, take a look at this video where he presents his research and a closer look at the studio of suspended disbelief here, and thank you for your up close attention.
 

 

Design and Solution


Thursday, November 30, 2017

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Before visiting the exhibition, I already knew about  Mine Kafon(Kafon means “explode” in Dari [x]), designed by Massoud Hassani. I was glad to see his work again and that made me curious about the background of this work. There were three impressive things about his design. The design is so simple that even children can assemble pieces of the ball. It contributes to global issues and the starting point of this design is connected to the personal story. Inspired by the homemade wind-powered toys which he made during his childhood in Afghanistan, Massoud created the Mine Kafon, a wind-powered landmine detector for his 2011 graduation project. The project rapidly gained interest in the media and in 2012, Massoud and his brother Mahmud organized a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the development of the Mine Kafon as a prominent piece of landmine clearing technology. I’d like to start with the general information about the designer and his work and introduce how design can develop for applying in a real life.

 

“We are looking forward to a landmine-free world.”

 

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The global statistics on landmines and their effects make sobering reading. According to the United Nations, up to 110 million mines have been laid across more than 70 countries since the 1960s and that between 15,000 and 20,000 people die each year because of them. Many of the victims are civilians – children, women and the elderly – not soldiers. Thousands more are maimed. Moreover, laying landmines is 50 times cheaper than removing them. And the removal is not without human cost either. The UN says that one mine clearance specialist is killed, and two injured, for every 5,000 mines cleared.

 

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As the only divided country in the world, South Korea also has landmines issues. The DMZ(the demilitarized zone) is the de facto barrier that divides the Korean Peninsula roughly in half. It was created by agreement between North Korea, China and the United Nations in 1953 and is 160 miles long and about 2.5 miles wide. Much of the border, one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints, is strewn with landmines and laced with barbed wire. It’s reported more than 1,000,000 mines are scattered throughout the area. In 2015, there was a landmine blast in the DMZ. As a result, One South Korean soldier had both legs amputated after the blast, while another lost one leg.

 

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Unlike South Korea which has most of the landmines in the military zone, Afghanistan has a different aspect. It is one of the worst affected countries, with an estimated 10 million landmines contaminating more than 200 square miles of land. It is something that Massoud Hassani, who was born and grew up and lived in the northern part of Kabul for about 15 years of his life, knows all too well. “We lived out by the airport, and there’s a big desert out there where all different militaries trained. It was a real war zone. They left a lot of explosives, including landmines. But, it was our playground.“. After moving to Holland in 1998 in search of a better life, Hassani decided to pursue a creative education at the Design Academy Eindhoven. Hassani’s 2009 research project focused on air, fire, earth and biomimicry, the result of which he turned into Mine Kafon.
Hassani has designed and built, by hand, a wind-powered ball that is heavy enough to trip mines as it rolls across the ground. The idea is that it is light enough to be pushed by a wind but heavy enough to trip mines. Hassani thinks that humanitarian organizations could take Kafons with them into areas suspected of being mined, and then let the wind do the dangerous work.

 

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The Hassanis spent the next two years developing a tool they hope will have a real-world impact: Mine-hunting Drone. The autonomous copter performs a three-step process: It maps an area, detects mines, and then destroys them. The brothers claim Mine Kafon Drones will clear mines 20 times faster than existing technologies. Removing a single mine by hand can cost $300 to $1,000; one Kafon costs about $1,100 and can cover a full minefield. The Hassanis hope to deploy thousands, potentially ridding the world of landmines within 10 years. Fitted with a 3-D mapping system, the drone locates mines with a metal detector. Using a robotic arm, it places a small detonator on top of them before setting off the device remotely.
Following Massoud’s first successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013, the Mine Kafon Foundation was founded. The Mine Kafon Foundation is an R&D organization based in the Netherlands. In the past three years, Massoud and Mahmud have been raising awareness by giving lectures around the world and developing new approaches on how to fight landmines in different environments. In this way, they have crowdsourced many engineers and designers from all over the world and invited them to collaborate and volunteer on this humanitarian project. This way, his ultimate goal which is to remove every landmine over the world is still working on it step by step.

 

“Mine Kafon is not only an anti-landmine device;

it opens a discussion of global awareness”

 

There’s a hidden problem in the world. A landmine can be overlooked and forgotten because it’s out of sight. Although the developed world seems to have been mostly cleared of this problem, its deadly effects are constantly experienced by civilians in over 60 nations. With a collective and humanitarian effort, we can defuse this hazard, which will enable the land to become useful again. There are landmines where farms ought to be; there are landmines where sports fields and parks ought to be;

 

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Before researching Massoud Hassani and his work, I didn’t realize the seriousness of landmines. Hassani’s design played a role as an entrance for paying attention to a forgotten global issue. Also, it was a good chance for me to learn the whole progress of his design. As he knows the pain of having landmines near home, he constantly improves his design, tries to apply his design in a real world to answers one question. Can design invent solutions to problems that we have put in place? The answer is yes.

Social Design and Relational Art


Thursday, November 30, 2017

 

“L’art est un état de rencontre” “Art is a meeting state” – Nicolas Bourriaud

When visiting the exhibition « Change the system » in the Booijmans, I wondered how art and design were differently defined when they both answer the one and only same question. At the very end of the show, I discovered the work of Manon van Hoeckel called ‘the laundry’. Manon is a designer, a social and critical one; she « designs context ». That was the very first time that I saw this term used , regarding a design work that had as a result a social cohabitation and that was human-centered in this way. Wasn’t it an art experience, such as Tino Seghal’s work or Marina Abramovitch’s one? How do design and art meet in social/relational situations to create a better understanding of our modern and future world?

 

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In the last decades, through many art movements that raised, two specific ones in art and design have emerged. In art, the relational aesthetic defined by Nicolas Bourriaud as “a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space. » In design, a social thinking approach has emerged in the same way, materializing into performances, contexts, tests, always in the finality to contribute to improve human well-being and livelihood. Although these two subjects do not have quite the same purposes, they coincide around the same problems and use the same tools with the purpose of better understanding/changing our world and human behavior.
In current art practices, it is not unusual to visit literally empty exhibitions which display works that turn away from the visual and the visible. Facing these constituent sensibilities, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the invisible artwork from its exhibition. But let’s say it’s acceptable, because it is art. But what if this happens with design? What’s the result of it? Nothing specific, just an experience. How is it created? What happens? Let’s first have a look at Manon’s work.
As a social designer, Manon creates event, spaces for people to discuss, she creates interaction between humans. In her project for The Boijman’s Museum , Manon actually creates a space where people can come for other reasons than visiting a museum, and also a space to discuss the exhibition itself. As an answer to « change the system », she proposes discussion. But how is her work different from Tino Seghal’s, how is it different from relation aesthetic? Tino Seghal also bases his work on people’s experience of meeting and sharing, the interaction being the piece of art itself, working against the production of an object. Regarding what is relational art, let’s give an other relevant example. Rirkrit Tiravanija is perhaps the most iconic artist of this movement. He moved all the contents of an art gallery storeroom and office into the exhibition space and staged his work in the back rooms; the art consisted of cooking Thai cuisine for his audience. The viewers became active par­ticipants, first locating the backrooms, then consuming the food and engaging in con­versations with the artist and one another, instead of quietly looking at objects in an exhibition space.
So, what’s different from Manon Van Hoecken’s work ? We can nowadays suppose that there exists a correlation between what art and design produce in the way that now they are both no longer results driven, and either of them do not have a specific function/utility (to a certain extent). Regarding both disciplines, the term ‘relational’ offers a more complex understanding than the simple oppositional binary of both art and design – as either socially active or not.
How come design and art became so abstract, looking similar and tending to focus on the human matter so much?
If we had to make distinctions, we might say that regarding social design, as Manon Van Hoecken produces, it is an experience of sociology that enables the designer and the users themselves to better understand how does interaction and human contact work nowadays. Designers then became « expert citizens » and it is more about designing WITH, but not for users. This could be called « Human centered Design », and is definitely very close to relational art.
Regarding relational aesthetic, it is more about taking as its subject the entirety of life as it is lived, or the dynamic social environment (rather than attempting mimetic representation of object removed from daily life, as would be the case in a Dutch Baroque still life). Also, it is important to emphasize that the main purpose of relational aesthetics is not simply to produce social relationships and interactions but also reflect upon society and critique it through the approach of disruption by creating non-produced exhibition and art. Also, participatory and relational art raise important questions about the meaning and purpose of art in society, about the role of the artist and the experience of the audience as participants.
If we look at it from a historical point of view, relational aesthetic are older than social design. Relational art, as we said before, is a term that was created by Nicolas Bourriaud in 1995 in his book « Relational Aesthetic », from his experiences of his artist colleagues in the 90’s. Social design and human centered design are younger, they appear a bit later in time and have become a real subject of interest nowadays. Is then art what inspired design to go into the more performative experience of customers? How does art influence design? This supposition brings us to an other problematic, but from what we’ve seen so far we can confirm two things:
If social design and relational art have the similarity of experience, design tends more to derive analysis and create problematics from it, otherwise art offers another way to experience and create, in contradiction to what is known and defined. Very similar in their forms, nowadays it can be seen how design and art can be closely related. Social design such as human centered design also gives a much more open minded idea of what design is and can be, far from any industrial or concrete problematics.

 

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In a project I made myself where I created a fake statue with the words “If you ever wanted to talk to someone, do it here whitestranger@outlook.fr” and waited for people to react by sending me/or not mails.
This project can be seen either as an art piece, bringing strangers and public spectators to help create the work itself. A design, social experiment, about loneliness but also about uses of internet communication.
White Stranger (click here to see the project)

 

About social design and how i have engaged with it


Monday, October 23, 2017

What i know about social design and how i have engaged with social design

What is social design to me?

Social design is about creating with or for a community. It’s about creating design through dialogue where ideas, beliefs and rituals should be discussed in order to design a solution or an object that benefits or helps a group of people. The designer should be able to connect with a community in a way, where the designer fully understand the community’s request(s) and need for change or a smarter solution. Social design is about humans, not the society.

From my personal experience, i have learned about the importance of social design, from working at an institution for disabled children, throughout and after my years in highschool. The residents at the institution called Tjørringhus are all multi-handicapped children between 4 and 18 years old. They need constant support, including personal hygiene, feeding, getting in clothes, brushing teeth etc. In order to help the child through its daily chores, as easily as possible, my coworkers and i, where deeply dependent on the resources and tool remedy’s we had. The same were the residents! Those resources were specially designed, to make daily life as convenient for both staff and residents, such as the childrens adjustable wheelchairs and lifts to move the child around and special designed cars, where wheelchairs would fit in perfectly, and could be secured safely. All of these indispensable resources have been made in close cooperation with designers, who have visited the institution, met the residents, experienced their daily needs, talked with the childrens parents, had talks and discussions with the staff at Tjørringhus. From those talks and experiences, the designers have been able to make the best possible solutions for both the residents and the staff working for and with the children.

The institution were at one point, over a period of one year where i was working full-time, involved with a danish design school, who made a project about social design and designing social relations. The aim of the project was to give the residents at Tjørringhus more and better relationships with the surrounding community. Neighbors, family, friends, and volunteers should be involved in the project and inspired and well dressed to take co-responsibility for their fellow citizens, at Tjørringhus. So in that way it was not only the public represented by the employees on the institution, who should be responsible for the citizens’ social relations.

The result of the project, was a great success. In fact the residents at Tjørringhus, now got more relationships, in the form of volunteers, taking the residents to activities and arranging activities in the home. In this way the institution has become a part of society and society a part of the institution. The more volunteers have also given the employees of Tjørringhus more time, which they can use on residents who need extra support. I felt it myself, while working on Tjørringhus. It was a huge opportunity for us, as employees to have more time with an individual child and get to give the child caring attention while doing activities.

 

The methodes that were used by the designers, that i understood, and the other staff got to know, while the project was ongoing was;

-       Empathize, where the designers create understanding for the user.

-       Define where the designer formulate insights and find an understanding of recognized and unrecognized needs and longings.

-       Idea where the designer draw up as many ideas and suggestions as possible in several different directions.

-       Prototype, where the designer build a model or kind of tale of the change they want to introduce.

-       Test where the model is put into a context and evaluated by the users.

 

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As part of the process, the designers completed field studies at Tjørringhus. Through a month, citizens and employees attended the home to gain knowledge and gain an understanding of their respective situations, challenges, wishes and needs. Based on field studies, the designers developed a number of so-called “social prototypes”; ideas for social relations with the residents and ways to create them. The prototypes were tested on stakeholders and further developed into the unifying concept: “Guest Bud” – How do you receive guests and how will you be a good guest at Tjørringhus?

With the “Guest Bud” as a starting point, the designers developed three solutions:

-       A communication tool for Ipad for the children on Tjørringhus. The tool allows the residents to present and tell about themselves. The residens at Tjørringhus have no language and therefore can not present themselves in a “normal” way. The ipad can always be used by the resident and they can then start an interaction – and a relationship. A tool we ended up having great use of at Tjørringhus. It gave the children the opportunity to explain themselves in a way, that haven’t been possible for the children before.

 

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-       An activity tool for employees and guests at Tjørringhus, which shows what activities and forms of interaction that are meaningful for relatives and outsiders to involve the resident. The child’s handicaps require that you as a guest find ways to be with the them in addition to the usual ‘everyday talk’. Lots of volunteers who, as mentioned, involved the residents in activities in society and involve society in activities with the children at Tjørringhus. The designers found several ways to do this, but what we ended up using the most was a simple solution with ideas for activities in a big box, that were special made, in colaboration with the designers, and some pedagogues working at Tjørringhus.

 

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Another new social design project, that my previous head of department at Tjørringhus made me aware of is `Medicine dosed with design` – a collaboration between TEKO Design School and the municipality of Ikast-Brande that will reduce medication errors.

A very large proportion of the unintended incidents, which are reported to the municipality of Ikast-Brande, are about emergency medicine. It is especially in the municipality’s nursing home, in home care and on housing that the problem arises. In the nursing home, ‘medication not given’ represents 63% of all reported events. In home care, it is 52%, and at residential facilities it is 46%.

This is why the special unit for Quality and Innovation under the Elderly and Disability Administration in Ikast-Brande Municipality has entered into a partnership agreement with TEKO Design School. The primary aim of the agreement is to get the designers’ help to find a new solution that can reduce the number of errors in the delivery of medicines in the elderly sector.

The partnership means that a group of employees at selected care centers conducts a design process under the leadership of TEKO’s professional designers and developers.

The key to the designer is to identify and solve challenges and problems in a way that makes sense for the employees, residents and any relatives who are included in the handling of medicine. This means that users can connect with the solutions – emotionally, functionally, socially and culturally.

Designers solutions seem intuitively attractive because they are created in a tension between the creativity and vision of the designer, on the one hand, and the users’ own experiences and ideas. It creates a balance between innovation – the surprising – and the users’ need for recognition. This avoids “waste” in the form of products that never reach the market or public service, which neither users nor staff find attractive and therefore easily turn their backs.

There’s still yet no concrete solutions, for what this social design project will lead to, but it does show the constant need for specialized designers, who can design responsible solutions for societies.

The experience of being a part of the project at Tjørringhus, or at least be able to stand on the sideline, observing how the project evolved and included both residents, staff at Tjørringhus and volunteers showed me the importance of social design and designing for and with people to improve their life quality.

 

Can high-end designs have any social significance?


Sunday, November 27, 2016

On first sight I loved Formafantasma’s designs, they held a certain elegance and beauty in their simplicity, the back to basics materials, gathered from the natural world juxtapose themselves, feeling both strong and delicate at the same time. It brought out my childhood fascination, I recalled scavenging for treasures on the British beaches of my childhood and taking them home to make new creations or to merely bring a glimpse of the natural world into my home in the dense, man-made city. These designers took this fascination, a primal human action of scavenging/collecting to an industrial level, contemplating the natural world by sampling, casting, weaving, reshaping their materials, making connections between unlikely materials to form a delicate balance between the rough and smooth, fragile and strong.

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Bone Jug, 2012 (Cowbone, leather, mouth blown glass) from Craftica series

Their work is fascinating also because of the delicacy with which they deal with their subject matter, not only with the physical properties of the materials but the symbolic and historical meaning. Their project Craftica for instance is an investigation into leather, highlighting our ancient roots of hunting for food, tools and body protection. They channel prehistoric tools, durable tools for survival made of bone and stone, combining the simplicity of these ancient tools into a modern aesthetic.

Tools of bone were originally a practical use of materials but are now becoming a design statement, a hark back to our ancestral heritage, a sign of simpler times within a society too lazy to source sustainable, durable materials, instead opting for the cheap, easy version –mass produced materials with processes which are quickly damaging our environment.

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Wolffish stool, 2012 (Wood, vegetal tanned wolffish leather)
Bladders water containers, 2012 (Pig and cow bladders, brass, mouth blown glass, cork)
from Craftica series

It is designers such as Formafantasma who are questioning this use of cheap, destructive materials, replacing them with more sustainable/unique alternatives. With each piece you can see where the materials came from and you question the story behind each material; the fish skin leather –a by-product of the fish food industry, in Alaska alone there are 2 billion pounds of fish by-products every year including fish skins which are often dumped into landfill or back into the ocean, left to pollute the water and kill off species’ (x article on an Alaskan start-up using salmon skin leather), or the cork leather –by harvesting the species of oak tree, Quercus Suber of their bark to form cork every 9 years rather than harming the trees it helps them live longer. Therefore, these designs are refreshing in a society where we don’t know where so many of our products come from.

However all of this comes at a price, an unlabelled price, a sale inquiry at a high-end gallery. Does this step into the elite then diminish the beauty or sustainability of these objects? These products, inspired by those that were once precious items necessary for survival then become an expensive showpiece. The matters of sustainability aren’t so important, it then becomes about the recognition and the money. Is it enough that they are potentially inspiring a next generation of designers, or inspiring the people that visit the Stedelijk museum to think more about where their everyday products come from? This engagement with the issue of the way we deal with our resources engages the viewer but it doesn’t solve the problem, instead it benefits the designer, giving them the recognition of being a sustainable designer making unique products.

So, are there sustainable, affordable designers out there who are actually impacting the way we live? Of course there are many design companies trying to come up with solutions to these problems, a good example is material science company, Evocative who have developed Mushroom Materials, a sustainable building material made from agricultural byproducts and mushroom Mycelium; these provide a natural alternative to common synthetic packaging and the company have experimented with using this as both packaging and a material for product design, producing stools and tables, as well as offering an affordable DIY pack. This opens up a way of buying products that are good for our environment, in addition to encouraging people to make their own products. A number of different designers have experimented with Mushroom Materials, for example architectural studio The Living built an organic tower Hy-Fi for the annual MoMA temporary structure, a biodegradable material was therefore perfect for the temporary building. By creating this innovative material Evocative have opened a door to a new future material that could replace the depleting materials that are destroying our environment.

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Grow It Yourself, Mushroom Material from Evocative $10
Hy-Fi, 2014 The Living Pavilion made with Mushroom Material

Another example of innovative sustainable design is the Paper Pulp Helmet designed by Tom Gottelier, Bobby Petersen and Ed Thomas, who made use of the many discarded newspapers around London’s transport system and recycled these to form helmets which would potentially cost £1, thus a low-cost environmentally-friendly solution to bike safety in the city. The design was just a prototype but the cheap and recyclable material/process is a perfect example of the future direction of design we need to take in order to preserve the planet.

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Paper Pulp Helmet, 2013 Tom Gottelier, Bobby Petersen and Ed Thomas

In my research I found it very difficult to find these examples, searching for ‘sustainable product design’ offers a lot of high-end designers with very expensive products or similarly to Formafantasma prices aren’t shown and they are presented in galleries more as a work of art than a sustainable design, therefore they aren’t presenting an immediate solution.

Perhaps we need government schemes to encourage designers/bigger companies to use better materials and to sell these products at affordable prices so they can compete with the mass-produced products that are often badly made and harmful to the environment. In recent years we have seen many countries across the world introduce a charge for plastic bags in supermarkets. This due to the fact that around 8m tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the marine environment. The charge was introduced by the government to try to influence consumer behavior and the result is massively affecting the amount of plastic waste, in England the number of single-use plastic bags was reduced by 85% over the first six months. If governments enforced similar rules on other products; introducing taxes to products with harmful materials then perhaps it could influence consumers to opt for better sourced products.

We, as consumers have brought about this problem, being so materialistic yet simultaneously too lazy to source sustainable products; we are struck by the aesthetic of a product and buy it without thinking where it came from or the ethical implication, just as I was struck by Formafantasma’s work in the Stedelijk, not considering the possible downsides of the designs. If there was a large scale enforcement of better quality, environmentally-friendly products then maybe consumers would think more before they buy.

Ocean Cleaning and Excessive Dreaming


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ocean Cleaning

‘A group exhibition that explores one of today’s most relevant topics: social design. The twenty-six designers featured in the show ‘dream aloud’ about a better world, and try to figure out ways to solve today’s complex societal issues. Venturing beyond aesthetic design, these designers show us ideas and technologies that can change the world.’

A steadily growing annoyance takes hold of me as I wander through the exhibition. Most projects at the Dream out Loud exhibition seem to me to be primarily about aesthetics and do not really concern themselves with providing solutions for today’s social and environmental issues at all. Quite an amount of goodwill is required to even see them as ‘social design’.

Projects that do engage with socially relevant subjects tend to focus on symbolic solutions that should rather be seen as ways to raise awareness for a problem rather than to actually solve it. From a practical point of view these solutions are most of the time completely unrealistic, or solve such a marginal part of the problem they deal with that their actual impact can be disregarded. Of course the designers are mostly aware of this. It is even stated on the website of the Stedelijk Museum.

But nonetheless, it leaves me thinking that the engagement with societal issues serves the promotion of the design and the designer rather than the other way around.

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One project breaks the rule. Ocean Cleanup, initiated by the Dutch student Boyan Slat, of whom I included a picture. When still in high school he devised a plan to clear all of the worlds’ oceans of the plastic that it has been polluted with in the past decades. He wants to use the ocean’s own natural currents to filter all the plastic out, eliminating the need for a costly moving vessel to drag the net. Although the feasibility of the project is not unanimously agreed upon, there is a good chance that it can, and will, be executed.

Ocean Cleanup provides a very real solution. In this it is different from all the other projects at the exhibition, and accordingly, it remains unmentioned in most [x] reviews [x] I’ve read [x]. A disinterest in the project can also be felt in how the Stedelijk mentions it on their own website as a ‘giant vacuum cleaner’, which is simply not what it is. One could argue that it is not even design. Boyan Slat is an engineer. I bet he has probably never even seen an art school or a gallery from the inside. Decisions considering the aesthetics of his project do not seem to even remotely interest him. Save for the purpose of promotion, of course, which is crucial for the funding of his plan, and probably also the sole reason he submitted his project to the exhibition in the first place.

What Slat is doing is, bluntly stated, vastly more important than design could ever be. Planting roses in the streets of Amsterdam to ‘make the city a little greener’ or making dresses using wax simply doesn’t compare to actually cleaning the entire ocean. It’s not even on the same planet. In a hundred years, when the whole exhibition and its content is long forgotten, the Stedelijk might not even be there anymore by then, his work will still be visible in the clearness of the water. And the beauty is that Boyan Slat himself probably doesn’t even care about being remembered, or how his project relates to the world of design. He just wants to clean the ocean.

 

Excessive Dreaming

I’m watching a TED Talk by Boyan Slat. As I just told you, he’s a pretty great guy. You know those motivational quotes you sometimes see on Facebook? Or those posters you sometimes see on Central Station? He’s living them.

Boyan Slat Dream II

He’s totally got it. The entire ocean. Quite literally the biggest thing on Earth.

Thinking of numerous impressive feats Boyan Slat has already accomplished, the prestigious institutes and people he has worked together with, the magazines and newspaper articles he has been in, I cannot help myself but to feel a slight sense of embarrassment. What am I doing here, sitting in my bed with my laptop, trying to get started on a relatively simple writing assignment, half-concentrated, slacking off from time to time into the wonderful world of distraction that is the internet, when there are so many great problems to be solved? I’m roughly in the most comfortable position imaginable if you think about it. I’m a white middle class guy from a wealthy nation, with loving parents, good education, a fully functional body and everything else the majority of people on this planet do not have according to statistics. My current lack of initiative stands absolutely unexcused.

Luckily, help is on the way. The video is flanked by a series of suggested video’s on how to learn any language in less than six months, how sitting down can kill you, how to know your life purpose in under five minutes, how to become a ‘memory master’, whatever that may be, how to become a millionaire in three years, how to retire by the age of twenty, and so on.

It seems all the wisdom I need to succeed is right in front of me. If Boyan Slat can do it, so can I. He is only one year older than me. Really, what am I doing here in my bed with my laptop? No more time to waste! There are more than enough grand issues to be taken on, there has to be at least one for me to solve. Can’t be too hard. I only have to get myself together, to take control, and to get up and do it! I can already feel the energy flowing through my body. This is going to be great. I’m going to be great. Nothing can stop me anymore!

So I close my laptop, forcefully throw back my blankets, step out of my bed, do some more stretches because my legs are asleep, realize I actually really have to finish this assignment, and sit back down again.

Everyday life does not seem to let big dreams get in its way.


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