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Extreme Materials #1: Introduction

Materials trends Vs. global changes. Following “State of Extremes” exhibition in Design Museum Holon, and my part in it as Curator of "Extreme Lab" category.

"Extreme Lab" sign from the exhibition. Efrat Barak - Material Innovation

Materials and technologies are important tools in the hands of designers, creators, architects and engineers. They enable the development of products, spaces, objects and open new possibilities.

Similarly to the world of design itself, the world of materials also plays a role in social, environmental and political changes. It is altering and ever changing, adapting itself and oftentimes acts as a key for change.

The "State of Extremes" exhibition, which marks the ten-year anniversary of Design Museum Holon (Israel) presents design as a reactor, catalyst and sometimes critic, for the global change that have reached to extremes in this passing decade. Alongside exciting design projects, the exhibition also features a variety of material and technological developments that correspond with trends of global change and can be used as practical tools for improving the current state of health, environment and culture.

What do materials have to do with global states of extreme?

In some cases, materials are both the problem and the solution. A prime example is the global plastic waste crisis. Specifically, the world's inability to treat the vast amounts of plastic we are producing and throwing away every minute of every day.

This crisis is the result of long years of unsupervised production and consumption; causing severe effects over our environment and climate, and damaging the health of both animals and humans [1, 2].

For the last few years, we have been asking the visitors at the Material Library if they are familiar with the "Great Pacific garbage patch", unfortunately, many of them have not.

From our experience, mainly professionals or environmental enthusiasts are familiar with this issue. Trash Isles campaign by LADbible exhibited in “State of Extremes” exhibition explores this issue in a creative impactful way.

"Trash Isles” campaign by LADbible. Credit: LADbible

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) It is a disturbing phenomenon, astounding by its size, which bluntly accentuates the actual need in reducing global plastic consumption. This is an enormous patch of plastic waste, which accumulated from across the world through ocean currents and formed an 'island', floating in the Pacific Ocean. The island’s size is estimated between 700,000-15,000,000 square kilometres (270,000-5,800,000 square miles) and counting.

Plastic is a cheap, versatile and lightweight material, it is also durable and does not disintegrate in water. These qualities makes it a popular choice of material for manufacturing of many products, but also makes it a very problematic choice when no regard to the product and material end-of-life solutions is taken.

The island (GPGP) is made of hundreds of billions of single-use and short-term use plastic products such as bags, toys, toothbrushes, flip flops, chairs, fishing nets and much more. For years, humanity has massively produced, used and 'disposed' of all of these plastic products, which did not disappear, but instead found their way into the waters of the Pacific Ocean. This continuing disregarded production and consumption chain is the foundation for this island.

Since this is a global phenomenon which touches many territories, change needs to come in various channels in order to create real change. Trash Isles campaign by LADbible is an example for a creative and unexpected way to take action in this matter. This campaign uses design, marketing and politics as tools for raising awareness to the GPGP problem. It demands that the UN will acknowledge the island as a state, and by that, force the UN-member states to take responsibility and attend the problem. This campaign promotes the solution in one way, but there are many other possible ways to do so.

*This article was first published at Design Museum Holon's Magazine

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[1] Study shows significant presence of plastic particles in children’s blood cycles>>>


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