Vases made from toxic waste
I found What is Luxury? at the V&A in London diverse and thought-provoking. Many displays focused on wonderfully desirable objects and included a white jacket made up of beautiful laser-cut feathers. Others showcased the incredible craftsmanship involved in its creation, such as the famous jewel-encrusted Fabergé eggs.
One of the most interesting exhibits for me was Rare Earthenware, a trio of vases made from toxic clay and was shown alongside a video of the whole manufacturing process. Unknown Fields Division collaborated with the ceramicist, Kevin Callaghan, to use contaminated clay in proportion to the amount of harmful waste produced in the making of a laptop, a smartphone and a car battery. It is even less clear why a lot of technology is so cheap nowadays when the bi-products can be highly toxic or even radioactive, absolutely non-recyclable and then dumped into a lake in Mongolia.
Each is described by the designers as a testament to ‘the toxic shadow that our everyday objects cast across the earth’.
Another unfortunate result of selling technology at rock-bottom prices is the awful treatment of workers. Perhaps the least valued resource in the whole production process, they are expected to work long hours in the most depressing and dangerous of environments. The employees’ physical and mental health have suffered greatly, and they are paid as little as £200 a month. Most of this income has to be spent on ‘cage’ accommodation provided by the mining/manufacturing firm they work for. The 3 unglazed vessels embody the nasty use of rare mineral resources and make an important point ecologically and ethically. Conveniently, we tend to ignore these when we are shopping for an upgrade to the existing computer.
image and quote from http://www.vam.ac.uk