Talking trash (about design)

Curatorial Statement

As environmentalism has infiltrated contemporary design, durability and longevity have become the buzzwords du jour—a corrective, perhaps, for the industry’s rabid churning out of the new and novel. Timeliness is starting to look a lot like timelessness, as a yen for conservation and conscientious consumerism has sparked a parallel set of trends: 1) eco-friendly furnishings, responsibly manufactured from environmentally sound materials and 2) exclusive, limited-edition design objects marketed as fine art. Although divergent in approach and aesthetic, both movements reject throwaway culture to prioritize permanence over the ephemeral—while trashing the very idea of disposability.

That’s our loss. After all, are disposable objects inherently bad? Doesn’t disposability have some redeeming social value? Isn’t replacing last year’s model with this minute’s curio what allows our tastes to evolve? Can’t we take a cue from cradle-to-cradle protocol and incorporate disposability into the design of quotidian objects? Don’t we need the psychic cleansing that comes with throwing things out and make way for the products of tomorrow? Disposability, after all, is what distinguishes design from art: its utility and ultimate deterioration or obsolescence. Moreover, doesn’t the very act of of creating involve “trashing” bad ideas in favor of better ones?

A blind embrace of all that is green, long-lasting, and heirloom quality—without pausing to ask some probing questions about our shifting cultural values—often backfires, engendering lazy thinking, greenwashing, and lost creative opportunities. While it is noble indeed to conserve resources, save money, and consume less, the one thing that should never be reused, recycled—or reduced—is an idea.


Written by JR

April 10, 2009 at 3:14 pm

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