Any country that agrees to host a UN climate change conference is bound to be scrutinized for their environmental policies, and at COP16 Mexico has met this scrutiny full force with at least three independent exhibitions and explorations of its natural beauty. Some are federally-funded exercises in propaganda. Some are the fierce work of jungle explorers. All reveal a landscape beyond the manufactured shores of Cancun – read on to take a look!
Design tends to think of the environment in only terms of materials and processes; how do we make things in a way that harms the environment least. So it was great to come across the work of designer Julia Lohmann. I met her about a year ago to write a piece about her in the New York Times.
Anyway. To the p0int. Lohmann is famous for her Cow Benches – uncomfortable pieces of furniture that consist of a single cow hide stretched over a skeletal frame to form a headless, legless shape that looks uncomfortably like a sitting cow. On one level it’s a kind of riposte to the DFS leather sofa, forcing us to think about the materials that the things we sit on are made of.
At first glance her use of animals appears repulsive and callous. Her graduation show at The Royal College of Art included a piece called Flock – a series of lamps made from sheep’s stomachs. She outraged fellow designers a couple of years ago with another seat shape calledThe Lasting Void, a sleek, futuristic pod that turned out to have been moulded from the inside of a slaughtered cow’s body cavity.
In fact they’re quite the opposite – a way of forcing us to think about our disconnection from the animals we slaughter. In fact there’s a tenderness about her pieces that’s more visible with the second glance. Raised in small-town Germany with a love of animals, who worked on farms in Iceland, she believes that if we kill animals we have a responsibility to know what we do, and to use every part of the carcass respectfully. As a student she had been fascinated by the reaction to Damien Hirst’s Mother and Child Divided: “You kill and cut up a cow and people are outraged,” Lohmann says. “Yet we do that every day. And what percentage of that meat is being thrown away?” Lohmann’s work is an attempt to create something useful – or at least respectful – from every piece of the dead carcass – even the cavity.
Unlike most design, Lohmann’s pieces leave you with a very clear question. If your reaction to her work is still that it is frivolous and unethical to use dead animals to make her pieces, then what else about the way we use animals is frivolous?
I met the family who have agreed to host my brief stay in Copenhagen. They were warm, and extremely welcoming. If the idea behind wooloo.org’s New Life Copenhagen initiative – which matches visitors to host families – is to embody the a new openness, then it may well be working. They are not the sort of people whose paths would normally cross with mine; Lars is involved in local politics as a right-wing politician. Gitte, his partner, says the Danish rarely invite people into their homes. But that is the point. Last night, over tea, we talked, all thoroughly enjoying the strangeness of it.
I wonder if we will get around to completing the questions in the New Life Copenhagen Guest/Host book that was left by my bed for us all to fill inF?
Would you describe yourself as an argumentative person?
Have you ever discriminated against somebody?
Have you ever been a victim of war?
Find an item in the home of your host that you find strange.
It’s not every day you get to meet the person who’s in the single most important job for tackling global climate change. Last week, environment journalist Paul Quinn was attending the Nobel Laureate Summit on climate change’s gala dinner on behalf of the RSA Arts & Ecology Centre. Walking up …
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