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"alienation" Tag


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

 

Fundamental Neglect


Saturday, February 17, 2018

When you visit the exhibition “Stedelijk Base” in the Stedelijk Museum, in the basement of the museum you will find the following industrial design-related object: “VALENTINE S” by Ettore Sottsass and Perry King. What you see is a red typewriter from 1969. The typewriter is combined with a plastic case, so that it can be transported. The design object is presented in a glass display case surrounded by artwork from the Pop Art period.
I wondered whether the context in which the object is presented does justice to the object, or whether the museum presented clichés.
But this question is not the question that occupied me the most. The following question has been keeping me busy for a while, which is why I use this blog to deepen my knowledge of the question: “How should a design object be presented?”, In order not to get lost in all possible solutions, I keep myself the above mentioned object; “VALENTINE S”.

As I type this, I do not know if I will find an answer at all. Perhaps the goal is to make the viewer aware of what he / she sees, especially : question what you see, critically.
To find an answer to this question, I want to start with a work of art that hangs close to “VALENTINE S”, namely “AS I OPENED FIRE” by Roy Lichtenstein from 1964.

 

8513867_1

Sottsass_ValentinoS

 

Both objects come from the seventies, both objects have  a Pop-Art character, both objects are in the flashing Pop Art colours, but the objects are completely different in intention. Lichtenstein’s painting is categorized by the Stedelijk Museum as a “painting”, thus a work of art. The typewriter is categorized as “industrial design”, thus a design object. This difference between design and art is already a difference of intention, you can therefore wonder how convincing it is to delve further into this, but I want to delve into another difference in intention: the painting is presented in the exhibition as Lichtenstein  would have liked it to be presented, as he intended and as many paintings are presented, namely; hanging on the wall. A distance is created between the creation and the spectator. In contrast to the painting, the typewriter is presented in a glass display case, this display case is attached to the wall, here too distance is created, but this distance can be questioned critically, because in an interview Sottsass said the following about his typewriter: “this was a machine that was designed to keep the poets company on lonely weekends in the country. Here is a link to The Olivetti Valentine S Typewriter and an its background story by a senior curator of Design Arts Indianapolis Museum of Arts.

Valentine in use

I get that the typewriter is more than an inanimate object, it is an object that offers company, it becomes part of your life, the distance between object and consumer is blurred.  The typewriter is now alone and will only be presented without any context. Locked in a glass box, stripped and alienated from his function and objectified to an object to watch, the distance between object and consumer (=now the viewer) is tightened. This is what I call “fundamental neglect”.

Of course, when you stand in front of the machine as a spectator, you can imagine what it would be like to travel with this typewriter under your arm and write stories. But an unpleasant distance has been created between the object and you.

The difference with the artwork of Lichtenstein is that the distance is fundamental to the painting, whether you want it or not, that is because it is not massively produced as the typewriter, the painting is thus less intrigued into daily life.

I want to explain the concept of “fundamental neglect” further. The problem I mentioned above does not play between spectator and creation, but it is a mistake, a miscommunication between the intention of the maker and the “presentation-ideas” of the museum. A miscommunication that leads to questions for the (critical) spectator.

The answer to this problem is somehow mentioned back in the text. I described above that the typewriter requires more interaction between the viewer and the object (= the typewriter), but this interaction is disturbed by the glass box. The intention of Sottsass was that the object had to be integrated into daily life, so we have to get rid of the locking up of objects in showcases, this ensures that you understand the object better.
I do not have everything in showcases at home! Because of this,  I am not alienated from my own stuff!

The next step is more radical; we must have the opportunity to touch the object, really feel it and get lost in it. As a counter argument you can say that it is a bad idea because it can break. Nevertheless, I think that the “breaking” of design objects, in many cases, is part of the creator’s intention. Sottsass described that it must be integrated into daily life, and objects can be destroyed in daily life.

If the designer does not want his object to be destroyed, he must indeed put it in a display case, but that does change the intention and when the intention changes, the whole object changes, is it still a design-object used into daily life?
I would strongly suggest to display the object without a glassbox, but to show it in its full nakedness. I would apply that to all the design-objects!

Show balls Stedelijk Museum, display the objects naked, see what happens.

The problem of finding an interesting subject


Monday, October 22, 2012

[publication of graduation essay by Lilian Stolk 2012]

 

 
“Zoek het dichtbij jezelf”, was de tip die mijn scriptie begeleider mij gaf. Ik zag mij zitten, op het puntje van mijn bureau stoel en mijn neus in mijn computerscherm. Maar wat mij zo fascineerde, wist ik niet. Na lang nadenken over een goede onderzoeksvraag, besloot ik de zoektocht zelf als onderwerp te nemen. Ik herhaalde de vier stappen die ik tot nu toe had genomen, zoals een museumbezoek of het analyseren van mijn eigen werk. Ik werkte samen met grafisch ontwerper Aude Debout, die de vier stappen fantastisch heeft vormgegeven.
 

 
Download thesis: Mijn zoektocht naar een onderzoeksvraag [dutch language]

[image from essay by Lilian Stolk][www.lilianstolk.com / www.ikhouvanvieren.nl]

 


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