Skip to Content Skip to Search Go to Top Navigation Go to Side Menu

"Synthetics" 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 f                                              farkesine


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 plastic,
with the in eighteen-sixty-two by Alexander Parkes invented material he named “Parkesine”.
Parkesine was 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 in eighteen-sixty-nine a variation of this parkesine called celluloid 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.

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 which can be found in nature are used.
This first fully synthetic plastic was called Bakelite, invented in 1907 in the USA by Leon Baekeland in the search for a synthetic insulator.
Bakelite appeared to be a perfectly suited material for this purpose as it was heath resistent and could be manufactured in mass-production.
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).



Nylon-was-taken-off-the-civilian-market-in-1942-and-went-into-war-to-make-parachutes-255791                                  platsic fabriek


During the 30′s of the 20th century these synthetic product were seen as extremely glamorous and beautiful but still, all these materials dit 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 in the capitalist consumer society.





Like these plastics humans are moldable as well, changing along with their inventions.
During the same period as the development of synthetics grew, 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.
In the 70′s liposuction was developed and not long after that botox was tested on humans for the first time.
With this the birth of the plastic human became a fact, largely stimulated and promoted by the cosmetic glamour industry.

Due to this rise of plasticity, synthetics slowly take 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.
Humans becoming deformed from natural appearance due to cosmetic surgery, and in the strive for human perfection this could only be de beginning of a more extreme, new plastic human being disbanded from nature.



platsic waste



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 may come.
The chair, made out of fiber reinforced plastic gives, due to its alienated human shape, the impression that it is not made for humans.
But is it not possible that it is the plastic ‘perfect’ human of the future who will fit perfectly in this furniture, alienated from himself in his plastic world.


brazil 2

Log in