Turning trash into gold

ifa-Institut’s upcycling exhibition “Pure Gold” is going on world tour. We present the fascinating upgrading of rubbish into design.

“Pure Gold - Upcycled! Upgraded!” exhibition
“Pure Gold - Upcycled! Upgraded!” exhibition dpa

A group of seats made of plastic packaging, a bookshelf made of wastepaper, luminaires made of tin cans, a blanket made of textile scraps, bags made of videotapes: Volker Albus, Professor of Design in Karlsruhe, joined up with six international curators for the 100th anniversary of the foundation of ifa-Institut to create an eye-catching upcycling exhibition. “Pure Gold” debuted in September 2017 at Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. And the exhibition is now going on world tour. First stop: TCDC Bangkok from 18 May to 22 July 2018.

Transformed into luxurious items

“From junk to luxury item” was one of the slogans at the opening. And indeed, 53 designers present 76 works showing how rubbish can be transformed into “pure gold”. A marvellous example is the “Drop” candelabra courtesy of designer Stuart Haygarth. It is made up of the bottoms of hundreds of different, carefully cleaned plastic bottles that he arranged to form a drop-shaped structure. Ironically, it is now so expensive that it cannot be displayed in the exhibition.

Recycling-driven design is not a completely new idea. “There are clear references to the principle of the readymade we all know from the visual arts just as there are to the Adhocism that Charles Jencks championed in the early 1970s,” Volker Albus writes in his introduction to the exhibition. The design concept is back in trend the world over.

Upcycling has strong roots in Asian culture

At the accompanying conference in Hamburg entitled “Trash it? Burn it? Use it!”, Thai designer Eggarat Wongcharit emphasised that upcycling is not a cultural export from the West, but has strong roots in Asian culture. His own objects, stools made of fabric offcuts, have, amongst other things, been on show at Milan’s Salone del Mobile.

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