Formafantasma creates a furniture collection from technology scraps
Formafantasma has always paid special attention to nature and its cycles, with the studio’s work often touching upon natural phenomena and materials. But for their latest project, the duo looked in the opposite direction, exploring waste systems as a means of creating furniture and objects in which the studio’s poetic visual language conceals deeper issues.
Opening this week at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, the ‘Ore Streams’ project was developed over two years of research and comprises different media including physical objects, video documentary and animation. The body of work addresses production and consumption, and the shift from mining precious metals to them being readily available overground in the form of discarded technology.
‘Our human greed for metals has grown to such an extent that, by 2080, the biggest metal reserves will not be underground. Instead, they will be above the surface as lingots stored in private buildings or otherwise circulated within products such as building materials, appliances, furniture and an ever-growing market of consumer electronic products,’ they explain.
Designers Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin spent months interviewing recycling experts including e-waste recyclers, academic researchers, electronics producers and NGOs working in developing countries. The result is a series of videos documenting these conversations, as well as the process for recycling electronics, and an animation by the pair that explores alternative recycling strategies.
A supplementary waste basket part of Ore Streams
The core of the exhibition is a collection of objects and CNC-milled aluminium furniture for an imaginary workspace: part pastel-coloured metalminimalism, part otherwordly composition. The objects take on a deeper meaning as familiar details are discovered: mobile phones piled on top of each other, a microwave aerating grid, a keyboard and computer towers, all repurposed to become integral parts of the furniture. Finishing touches throughout the collection feature gold scavenged from electronic waste.
The decision to design a collection of pieces for the office was more than cosmetic: the office environment, explain the designers, ‘is where modern design principles are most visible’. The search for efficiency, ideal standards and a universal style are represented by pieces such as the filing cabinet and the modular cubicle, two examples of quintessential workspace staples that the designers have put their unmistakable mark on.
The exhibition is accompanied by a series of NASA-released images of craters on Mars, hinting at the alien origin of some of these materials, which reached Earth as meteorites several millennia ago.
‘Ore Streams’ is an important body of work for Formafantasma, opening up a wider conversation with the creative world. With this multidisciplinary series, Trimarchi and Farresin address a complex issue, suggesting that design can become a force for global change.