Toxic design

05 : 05 : 2015 What Is Luxury? : V&A : Victoria And Albert Museum

London – Radioactive waste has been transformed into minimalist 'rare earthenware' vases by design studio Unknown Fields Division.

  • The studio discovered a lake of industrial sludge in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia
  • 'Our toxic vases are an attempt to make hidden relationships more visible' – Liam Young, Unknown Fields Division
Rare Earthenware by Unknown Fields Division and Kevin Callaghan, London Rare Earthenware by Unknown Fields Division and Kevin Callaghan, London
Rare Earthenware by Unknown Fields Division and Kevin Callaghan, London
Rare Earthenware by Unknown Fields Division and Kevin Callaghan, London

Kate Davies and Liam Young, founders of Unknown Fields Division, collaborated with ceramicist Kevin Callaghan to create Ming-style vases for the 21st century. The vases were created with material sourced from a muddy lake in Mongolia, a dumping ground for a refinery where metals are processed from nearby mines. The team found that the sludge had three times the normal radiation levels.

The vases are a physical reflection of the current Anthropocene era, in which humans are the dominate influence on the environment.

‘Our tech gadgets are sold to us through qualities like lightness and thinness and terms like “the cloud” or “MacBook Air”, but in fact they are actually geological artefacts,' Liam Young told Dezeen. 'Vast areas of the world have been remade in the service of our shining gleaming digital futures.'

The Big Picture: The vases are on show at the V&A's What is Luxury? exhibition and embrace the Whole-system Thinking approach, whereby what and how we consume is changing the core of the living world.

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