Recycling and re-using ordinary everyday things to turn them into exquisite glamour-infused objects of art and design is a practice that has become increasingly mainstream, ever since it was showcased almost a decade ago now at the ICA’s Stealing Beauty exhibition in London, curated by Claire Catteral. I have been following the trend with great interest as it has seeped into the recesses of contemporary culture, as an easy conceptual shortcut to comment on the evils of our throwaway society, the excesses of consumerism, the beauty of anonymous objects and the need for sustainable practices.
This now hegemonic trend is about to be enshrined for good in the inaugural exhibition of New York’s new Museum of Arts and Design, Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary. (Sept 27, 2008 – Feb 15, 2009). Here’s the blurb:
The exhibition features work by 50 international established and emerging artists from all five continents who create objects and installations comprised of ordinary and everyday manufactured articles, most originally made for another functional purpose. The exhibition includes works by well known designers, Ingo Maurer, Tejo Remy, and the Campana Brothers as well as internationally acclaimed artists, such as Tara Donovan, Xu Bing, El Anatsui, and Do Ho Suh.
Highlights from the show include American artist Tara Donovan’s Bluffs, a group stalagmite shaped structures made of clear plastic buttons delicately placed one on top of the other. Do Ho Suh, a Korean artist creates a jacket made of military dog tags, portraying the way a solider is part of a larger troop.
Paul Villinski, an American, creates beautiful butterflies out of his old record collection, producing a “soundtrack” of his life. English artist Susie MacMurray used yellow rubber washing gloves, turned them inside out and stitched onto a calico form to create an imposing out-sized dress.
Other featured works are made from buttons, spools of thread, artificial hair, used high-heeled shoes, plastic spoons and forks, shopping bags, and 25-cent coins to mention only a few.
The exhibition surveys the rich artistic landscape of much contemporary art, in which hierarchies among art, craft, and design are disregarded. In addition, the exhibition examines the ways in which artists transform our world, respond to contemporary cultural paradigms, and comment on global consumerism.
I offer today for your entertainment, a few snapshots of the humble styrofoam cup on its journey of reincarnation as a lamp, which of course hasn’t made it any more sustainable, but is nevertheless turning it into an A-list celebrity of the creative re-use gang.
If you have come across other interesting examples of this, please send me a picture! bcnd [at] narotzky.com
"Styrene Lamp". Paul Cocksedge, 2003
“Untitled (Styrofoam Cups)” Tara Donovan, 2008.
"Styrolight" from Readymade.com (Issue 4)
Self-made Styrofoam cups chandelier posted on Apartment Therapy, 2005.
"Garbage Lamp", Peter Castellucci, 2008.