They are easy to shape, versatile and cheap to produce: For decades, plastics have inspired the imagination of designers, given rise to companies and electrified consumers. Plastics are everywhere – in packaging, in fashion, in the home, in furniture, in cars, trains and buildings. Hardly any other material shapes our everyday life so conspicuously. For decades, according to the Vitra Design Museum’s announcement of the exhibition “Plastic: Remaking Our World”, “plastics stood for carefree consumption and revolutionary innovations, they fired the imagination of designers and architects. But these times are over, since the consequences of the plastics boom have become drastically visible.”
With the exhibition conceived jointly with the V&A Dundee and the Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia Lissabon (Maat), the Vitra Design Museum is devoting itself from 26 March to 4 September to the history and utopian potential of plastics and is examining the current challenges of the use of plastics for design, science and politics – “from the rapid rise of plastics in the 20th century and their devastating consequences for the environment to approaches to solutions for a more sustainable use of plastics”.
Numerous facets of the so-called “petromodernity” are illuminated. To begin with, a film installation illustrates the conflicts that arise from the production and use of plastic. In the further course, the development of plastics and their perception from the beginnings in the middle of the 19th century to their current global ubiquity will be examined. Rarities from early modernism, objects from the pop era, as well as current designs and projects will be shown, including “pragmatic innovations, initiatives to clean up the oceans, concepts for recycling, and bioplastics based on algae or fungal cells”. To show how the global plastic waste crisis can be tackled, projects such as “The Ocean Clean Up”, “Everwave” and “The Great Bubble Barrier” are presented, among others, with the help of which plastic waste is to be filtered out of rivers and oceans. In a separate exhibition area dedicated to recycling, visitors can also learn about recycling cycles in an interactive room and experience how valuable and inspiring recycled plastic can be as a new raw material through the “Precious Plastic” project by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens.
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