The best form of recycling is not to produce things in the first place.
However, until every one understands that, things will continue to be produced in senseless quantities, and senseless quantities of things will eventually reach the end of their useful life.
Largely, though not exclusively, based on projects submitted for the annual Recycling Designpreis, the exhibition “Transformations – Concepts of Re-using Things” currently showing at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge in Berlin presents a collection of objects which not only offer some answers but which also document and explain the differing forms of re-use that can take place and the differing motivations for re-using.
And so, for example, next to objects such as the (garden) bench DIN 1317 crafted by Felix Kaiser and Dirk Wember from old traffic barriers or the Recycling Chair by Bär+Knell, which represent classic maintaining rather than disposing, Transformations also presents re-use as a form of documentation as exemplified by the Schuldenhemd (Debtor’s Shirt) from Swetlana Schmidt, a tunic created from the bank statements of her late, and overdrawn, grandmother; re-use as a form of critique of consumerism as demonstrated by, for example, the trolley suitcase Fusion by Anna Bormann; or re-use through necessity as for example with the repaired stool discovered by Anna Pannekoek and Max Borka in Istanbul or a self-created carpet sweeper fashioned from old tank tracks and found in an abandoned Soviet barrack.
In addition Transformations explores the different types of metamorphism that can take place, for example, public to private, functionless to functional or worthless to valuable, and changes of perceptions and meaning that arise through re-use, for example the transformation of mass produced to unique, standard to customised or industrial to handwork.
As older readers will be well aware, we don’t approve of misappropriating perfectly good objects for new purposes, nor do we like overly arty readymades: fortunately Transformations doesn’t have any, or at least not that many, such objects. Something which helps make it a highly enjoyable exhibition. In addition the objects on show in Transformations, or at least the majority of objects on show, are in essence design objects; they have been created through design processes – only with previously used materials rather than new. Or put another way, the transformation isn’t the objects raison d’etre, the object is.
But perhaps the best thing about Transformations is that it gently reminds us that we really, really need to produce less.
Transformations – Concepts of Re-using Things runs at Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge, Oranienstraße 25, 10999 Berlin until Monday May 19th.
Full details can be found at www.museumderdinge.de