Every month we send a photo to the Vitra magazine. And every month they don’t.
Whereas the good Jaspers photos are always entertaining, this months entry was a lot more thoughtful and thought provoking.
Taken in Indian Pondicherry the photo shows a chandelier made from old PET bottles and Christmas lights. “If this was an exhibit at the Salone del Mobile in Milan I wouldn’t give it a second look” comments Morrison, before adding “but far removed from the temptations of designer dreams in Pondicherry, it holds a very different meaning and purpose.”
We don’t know how often Jasper Morrison was out and about in Milan, but we saw at least two lamps made from recycled bottles in Italy, then a couple in New York and yet another at DMY Berlin (in addition to the re-appearance of one we’d already seen in Milan)
Not only that but in Berlin we also found a lamp made out of broken umbrellas.
Discarded consumer goods as lighting is a current topic in contemporary design.
Except of course the materials aren’t discarded; rather, they’ve been used out of context to create the impression of a recycled product and so make a statement about first world consumption.
Only the product themselves automatically become an abuse of the uncontrolled consumption we in the north practice. We just call it “the temptations of designer dreams” in order to justify the unjustifiable.
For everyone who knows how much natural resources and energy goes into making one PET bottle also knows that tying it to another dozen to create a lamp is irresponsible waste.
And so where Morrison focuses on the Pondicherry Chandelier as demonstrating the intrinsic quality of good design, for us the more important message is: Stop pretending your recycling. Please.
If you live and work as an industrial or product designer in Europe you have almost limitless possibilities as regards raw materials and production processes. If you genuinely care about creating “green” or “sustainable” design make sure your materials and production processes reflect that concern and minimise impact.
And if you don’t care about creating “green” or “sustainable” design, then build a chair from asbestos.
When Morrison states “…in Pondicherry, it holds a very different meaning and purpose” he means, and we believe understands, that it is “genuine”. Isn’t created as an artistic exercise by someone with access to libraries, internet, machines and materials in a scale beyond the grasp of most people; rather, by someone who needs to solve a problem, and that with the limited resources that physically lie before him.
There’s a verse in “Holiday in Cambodia” by the Dead Kennedys that goes:
Play ethnicky jazz
To parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin that you know
How the niggers feel cold
And the slums got so much soul
The world doesn’t need designers demonstrating to the the worlds poor how clever one can be with a few old plastic bottles and a bit of electric cable. As the Pondicherry Chandelier beautifully demonstrates, the skills exist, the innovation exists, the understanding exists.
And the unfair global distribution of resources exists.
The world needs designers who improve our situation and who understand that PET bottles are part of the problem and incorporating them into designs doesn’t actually help.
We need fewer PET bottles, not more.
Sustainability and fairness don’t mean puritan abstinence; they can be fun, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. And as far as we’re concerned should be. We positively appeal to the designers of the world to make the future for comfortable and safe; and that for all of us from Tipperary to Pondicherry and from Copenhagen to Harare.
Just don’t pretend your recycling for the benefit of the over-fed and the over-paid. And especially not with PET bottles.
And so thanks to Jasper Morrison for the photo, and more of the same please.
More weak, and potentially unfunny, humour about dogs driving delivery vans tomorrow :)