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Climate change and global warming are generating long-lasting impacts on the exploitable resources of Earth as we know it and this will last only for a certain amount of time before reaching the point of no return given our current economic models and consumption habits. As a response, a new economic model "Circular Economy" has risen, this system proposes a new economic system based on reevaluating and re signifying resources, including what we currently call rubbish, or waste, to be reused in order to reduce (ideally eliminate) waste generation and disposal at the same time that impact on the environment is suppressed. This new economic restructuring needs the participation of all kinds of economic sectors, including art and culture.

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Many different artists and designers from different backgrounds have summed their efforts towards creations that not only express and synthesize the feelings and reactions towards this increasing reality, but also have come up with creative, prototypical and many times real practical propositions of what could be (and in some cases, currently are) solutions to this huge problem that encompasses all of us. Through this new economic model, art is gradually shifting from a good one possesses or is displayed in a museum for aesthetical and historical purposes, towards a service in which the general public benefits. Art is changing from ownership to access, there is no unique owner but the foundations of design and creations are for the profit of everyone. Art and design in this sense are not aspiring any longer to be a commodity but looks to enter this economic system to become active in every day people’s life.

Last Year Milano Triennale hosted an exhibition Broken Nature, where a series of artworks and designs were focused around the conscientiousness of all trends which lead to the sustainable operation of all sectors and people's consumption habits. Art and institutions have huge potential (and even responsibility I would dare to say), to catapult these initiatives and become relevant to society and economic systems more than ever. Amsterdam based Studio Formafantasma (Ghost Form) is composed of two Italian designers who have been one of the artistic endeavours who have taken their social responsibility as artists very seriously, rethinking form, use and purpose while challenging and reconfiguring our current relationship with consumption. The Italian duo presented at Triennale their piece Ore Streams a project that demonstrated how electronic waste can be reused with practical purposes, in this case, some luxury furniture which is actually on sale. “The goal is to offer a platform for reflection and analysis on the meaning of production and how design could be an important agent in developing a more responsible use of resources.” Similarly, the studio has an ongoing project called Cambio, designing and proposing different wood appliances, some of which aspire to live as long as the time it took the tree to grow before it was processed into the materials by which the furniture was made from. The general project has the goal of restructuring the understanding of trees and their impact on the biosphere and the role that design has in a sustainable and aware utility.

 

Formafantasma, Ore Streams, 2018. Photograph from Formafantasma Archive

 

The Living, is a New York-based studio which has also contributed greatly in their creative thinking and prototyping of new designs and architecture considering new forms of creating like bio-computing, bio-manufacturing. Their project has been able to be a very insightful multidisciplinary one which combines biology, computation and sustainability. On of The Living most iconic works was a temporary pavilion located at the MoMa PS1 who’s design obtained several international recognitions. The project consisted of two towers which were elaborated through a bio-design method with advances computer-based engineering. It was made of organic blocs of corn stalk which produced zero carbon emissions and one brought down would integrate inside the natural carbon cycle without generating waste, this was a positive precedent of the feasibility of sustainable design in the creation of art exhibitions and temporary design for events as was in this case. The group continues to stay active with a myriad of projects that can be found on their webpage.
 

 

HyFi, The Living, 2014, installation made of organic blocks. Photo by Kris Grave

 

Most recently, MoMA’s curator Paola Antonelli along with Alice Rawsthorn a design critique came up with Design Emergency a project designed around COVID-19 in which the role of design and its influence during this crisis and the end of it that it can play. In this platform, Paola Antonelli invites different guests, many of them designers and architects to speak about how the conception of creative design can serve a positive purpose inside the local communities and with the environment especially during these times of pandemics, in which designs and artistic creators need to contemplate all factors to play a positive influence to address our current issues. You can follow this late project on the Instagram account: @design.emergency 
 
In December of 2018, across several public spaces in London, including that of the Tate Modern and the offices of Bloomberg 30 blocks of ice extracted from Greenland were placed to melt at the sight of passers-by. Olafur Eliasson, famous Danish-Icelandic artists came up with this installation as a way to raise conscience through a vivid and tangible example of the effects of global warming on the environment "It is so abstract, it's so far away Greenland, it's literally out of our body and it's in our brain and I wanted simply to change that narrative of the climate from our brain and emotionalise it into our bodies". Through the physical contact, smell and sight Eliasson explains there is closer proximity and empathy towards what is happening around them, something that simply reading in the news may not be simple enough. The artist has worked in different sustainable designs previously like a sun-powered lamp and environmentally minded stickers. These are some examples of how creators, artists, designers and architects and working towards a responsible conscious process that is sensitive to political, social, economic and environmental issues towards the creation of a sustainable world. Perhaps it is a historic moment for art in which its role will allow the shifting of the structures with the new economic models.


Cover image: Olafur Eliasson, Ice-Watch, 2018, ice blocks. Photo from DeZeen webpage.

Written by Eduardo Alva Lòpez
 

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