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Design Studio Makes Ceramic Vases Out Of Radioactive Waste

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The Unknown Fields Division is a traveling design research studio (directed by Liam Young and Kate Davies) that has sculpted traditional Ming vases out of mud taken from a radioactive lake in Inner Mongolia. This “lake” is a noxious swamp made of debris created in the production of some of our most desired (and idealized) technology items. In an effort to explore the transnational origin of these items — and, indeed, explore the dark underbelly of their creation — Unknown Fields has made each vase proportionate to the amount of waste produced by the following objects: “a smartphone, a featherweight laptop, and the cell of a smart car battery” (Source). The result is a trio of apocalyptic-like earthenware vessels. Their grim, blackened surfaces are covered in a glistening “glaze” that was created when heavy metals contained in the mud melted in the pottery kiln. The vase materials were so toxic that the sculptors had to wear full-body protection at each stage of production, from on-site collection to creation in their London workshop.

These vases are part of Unknown Fields’ greater project to follow an international supply chain of “rare earth” elements (which are used in the creation of electronics) back to their place of origin: the toxic lake in Mongolia. Kate Davies explains the metaphorical purpose of the vases in this investigative journey:

“The vases are a way to talk about ideas around luxury and desire. How both are culturally constructed collective sets of values that are fleeting and particular to our time. These three ‘rare earthenware’ vessels are the physical embodiment of a contemporary global supply network that displaces earth and weaves matter across the planet.” (Source)

When we hold our cellphones and laptops in our hands, we rarely think about their origins. As Liam Young insightfully points out, “terms like ‘cloud’ of ‘Macbook Air’ imply that our gadgets are just ephemeral objects — and this is the story we all want to believe” (Source). We must not forget that such technologies, despite their polish and glamor, derive from earthly materials processed in factories and shipped across the world. Just as Ming vases were once subjected to an international demand based on their beauty and associations with wealth, Unknown Fields’ creations remind us of how such systems of consumer culture are continuing. “The three vases are presented as objects of desire, but their elevated radiation levels and toxicity make them objects we would not want to possess,” Davies explained. “They represent the undesirable consequences of our materials desires” (Source).

The vases will be on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum “What is Luxury?” exhibition, which runs April 25th to September 27th. Accompanying the exhibition is a film by Toby Smith, which documents Unknown Fields’ journey from container ships to factories to the radioactive lake (the trailer can be viewed above). Visit the Unknown Feilds’ website for more explorations of remote landscapes with surprising (and unsettling) intersections with our daily lives. (Via Fast Co.Create)


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Magic For Beginners @ P.P.O.W

Historically, the formulas of Modernism have lent themselves to the imposition of structures on nature.   Utilizing an economy of means, or a paring down of form, some artists have drawn attention to the processes and materials that they employ in order to comment on limitations inherent in human observation and experience.  The impossibility of this search for certainty is prescient in a world rife with unforeseen technological advances and consequences.  From Kurzweilian “singularities” to the embrace of dystopic or parallel hyper-realities, many artists today use Modernist tropes to draft odes to possible futures.

In the face of such infinitely malleable destinies, the ten artists selected for this exhibition remain undaunted.  In bold, minimal and idiosyncratic terms, they propose new, decidedly un-grandiose, vernaculars through various mediums such as video, photography, and sculpture.  Their works concern themselves with an intensely personal present tense, with lives lived and documented in real time.  These works are inward, solipsistic, and in some instances, similar to an occult experience or an exercise in ritualized revelation.  The art object is often left over from actions performed in service of an impossible quest, or crafted in playful celebration of it.  These artists seem to exist in cultural peripheries, lobbing ruminations out of left fields, revealing epistemological truths—truths that have little or nothing to do with changing the world.

Featuring: Bas Jan Ader, Olaf Breuning, Jennifer Cohen, Scott Hug Kevin Lips, Niall McClelland, Jesse McLean, Kristie Muller, Rbt. Sps., Brent Stewart
July 28 – August 26, 2011 | Opening Reception: Thursday, July 28, 6-8pm
535 West 22nd Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10011

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Florentijn Hofman’s Giant Sunbathing Bunny Sculpture

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Florentijn Hofman, mostly known for her interactive, cutsey and giant sculptures of children’s toys (ie. Rubber Duck, Max), has created Sunbathing Hare, another eye-catching and adorable installation for everyone to find their inner child with, yet again. It was taken down yesterday Oct.13th, 2013 as it was part of the Netherlands Bilateral Year and the Russian public arts program and was only allowed to be on site for a few months.

With outstretched arms, the over-sized lazy creature suggests a lazy, happy pose, as it lays on the green grass of Hare Island near the St. Peter and St. Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia. It has contagious vibe; people lie and sit next to it with intentions to relax and forget about their problems for a moment.

Sunbathing Hare measured 15 meters long by 8 meters wide and 2.5 meters high. It was made out of plywood boards, a pink painted nose, eyes, and smile with a touch of charm and humorousness. (via designboom)

“My sculptures cause an uproar, astonishment and put a smile on your face. They give people a break from their daily routines. Passers-by stop in front of them, get off their bicycle and enter into conversation with other spectators. People are making contact with each other again. That is the effect of my sculptures in the public domain.”

Ethereal Portraits By Merve Morkoç Showcase Horrific Beauty

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Beauty is a treasured thing in our culture, and Turkish artist Merve Morkoç, aka Lakor mis, turns this ideal on its head. At first glance their paintings are of seemingly young, glowing-skinned models, but a longer gaze reveals that these subjects all have something seriously wrong with them. Coupled with their well-coiffed hair are fantastical disfigurations that you’d see in a horror film. Warped eyelids, caved in faces, and rashes exist on these young women.

Any sort of pleasant response you initially had is probably gone, and the works are like a train wreck that you can’t look away from. The strange details are intriguing, and it speaks to Morkoç’s expert handling of the medium that they are easily able to fool us into thinking something that’s repulsive is actually beautiful. (Via Hi Fructose)

Wildcat Will Merges Past, Present, And Punk In A New Series Of Beautiful Collages

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In his new series of collages entitled Love is like a Butterfly, artist/musician Wildcat Will delves into the absinthe drenched demi-monde of Parisian cabaret, and uses his own pop art inclinations, and other contemporary elements to create original pieces. This new series in based on the powerful imagery of the butterfly, its transitional phases, and its ephemeral and intense beauty as a parallel for the beauty and tragedy of human life.

His collages combine photographs from the Parisian cabaret Les Folies Bergère with texts. The intricate backgrounds of his collages incorporate elements such as zebra print, oversized flowers and, butterflies. The combination of old photographs with modern typography and colorful, ornate details leave room for the viewers to get lost in his work and examine the world of cabaret from a different perspective.

The clashing of old photographs and typography work together towards creating a sort of punk aesthetic which Will attributes to his cultural upbringing . He equates the ladies of the Folies Bergère to the punk rock movement and, by doing so gives another level of depth to his collages. Through these pieces, Will has created a magical platform for us to meditate on our morals and standards.

Gianmarco Magnani


Inspired by the futuristic animation of Katsuhiro Otomo‘s 1988 film, Akira, Gianmarco Magnani’s latest prints bring a third dimension to an otherwise flat medium. His two part series, “Silence Television”, draws from the linear style of traditional Japanese anime, and maintains a simliar graphic appeal. In his first set of four illustrations, entitled “Riders and Villains”, Magnani hoped to create a tension between good and bad in his riders. (As he pointed out, good without evil is just uninteresting). His second set, “The Forgotten Monarchy” marries a modern aesthetic with vestiges of the styles of 16th century European monarchies.

Colorful “Reminders” Infuse Daily Tasks With Humor and Whimsy




Erin Hanson’s Reminders series captures everyday thoughts and places these reminder-thoughts near an appropriate domestic location. These colorful reminder text designs inject daily mundane tasks, like washing dishes, brushing teeth, reading, and watching television with fun, humor, and whimsy. Hanson’s appropriately titled blog, Recovering Lazyholic, began as an attempt to combat laziness and mainly feature two things she loves: photography and graphic design, both of which comprise this particular series. These multi-colored letters remind me of the colorful alphabet magnets commonly found on refrigerators, and my first encounters with them as a child. Whatever the task at hand, Hanson’s designs and photography remind us that we need to accomplish these tasks, but also to live these tasks a little more colorfully and playfully. Hanson lives and works in Austin, Texas.

Daniel Boschung’s Uncomfortably Close Portraits Of Human Faces Reveal Every Flaw


For his series “Face Cartography,” the photographer Daniel Boschung creates an unnerving portrait of the human face, bringing it into a hyperrealistic focus that exceeds even the powers of the naked eye. Each high resolution likeness is composed of approximately 600 individual shots, each of which boasts the astounding size of 900 million pixels. The artist programs an ABB industrial robot to scan the entirety of his subjects’ faces, forcing them to sit still for up to 30 minutes per session.

Boschung’s photographs are visually jarring in part because they allow us to scrutinize the features of others in ways that are not possible in daily life. We rarely get close enough to view another’s pores and nose hairs; even if we did, our eyes would focus on a single spot, and the rest would fade into our peripheral vision. “Face Cartography” presents its subjects’ flesh with a depth of field beyond that of human vision, and as we move our eyes across the page, we need not fear that they will move, blur or obstruct our view. In this way, the portraits are uncomfortably intimate and unsettlingly vivid.

The artist explains that in his photographs “emotions are completely missing;” because his subjects must hold the same position for a longer period of time, fleeting emotive expressions do not register on the composite image. In this way, the work might be read as a powerful reflection on gestalt visual psychology, which proposes that the sum of the parts of an image do not necessarily reflect the whole. The up-close high-resolution parts that compose the final image are certainly transfixing, but when added together, do they accurately reflect the person photographed? What do you think? (via Design Boom)