GEO-DESIGN: Junk

GEO-DESIGN: Junk, organised by Design Academy Eindhoven and the Van Abbemuseum, was perhaps one of the most striking exhibitions during Dutch Design Week (DDW) 2019. It was the second chapter in the exhibition series GEO-DESIGN, an annual collaboration between the two institutes.

Design Academy Eindhoven initiated the GEO-DESIGN platform in response to the growing need for space for experimentation and tangible support for young designers and researchers. In the chapter 'Junk' alumni from Design Academy Eindhoven examine the worldwide systems of discarded things, from satellite cemeteries to unsold fashion items and the plastic soup in the Northern Pacific.

Each of the 18 projects had a different approach to waste

The exhibition was curated by designer and researcher Martina Muzi and Joseph Grima, director of Design Academy Eindhoven. Together they selected eighteen projects with strikingly different approaches to design and research. The projects see waste as a barometer for consumption and production and as a subject of intercontinental diplomacy.

Shahar Livne's project Accumulation/Landscapes of the Plastisphere, for example, looks at The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This ever-growing island of waste is beginning to take on the form of a new continent, populated by a colony of microbial life called Plastisphere. They use the plastic as their home or as a food. This new form of life has the potential to transform the plastic soup into a catalyst for evolution. In a series of videos and recordings, visitors to the Van Abbemuseum were invited to explore life on this new continent.

Noud Sleumer's project The Transboundary Loophole looks at waste on land. Every year, we produce 40 to 50 million tonnes of electronic waste worldwide. Only 20% of this e-waste is actually recycled. The remaining 80 percent disappears in an obscure circuit of illegal international trade. The definition of e-waste is rather dubious, and traders take advantage of this by labelling waste as second-hand goods.

For example, the waste is exported from one country as a usable stock and imported by another as waste. This creates a large number of waste heaps, but at the same time also a whole new industry. Noud makes these mountains of rubbish visible in an atlas made using satellite images. The site-specific stories are visualised on postcards depicting symbolic objects.

Each of the 18 projects had a different approach to waste. Half of the eighteen projects that appealed to the imagination were on display in the museum. The other works were on display in locations throughout the centre of Eindhoven, such as in De Bijenkorf, Sissyboy and De Witte Dame. Through spreading the exhibition over several locations, the artists sought a connection with the city.