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Material Explorations: Under Present Conditions

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Friedman Benda‘s latest exhibition, “Under Present Conditions,” delves into the realm of contemporary design’s response to urgent environmental and social challenges. Departing from the conventional focus on mass production, the exhibition instead explores material experimentation and its potential. Featuring twelve artists from around the world, the show offers a diverse range of perspectives, each piece telling a unique story of its origins. Unlike the typical emphasis on sustainability, the theme of ‘responsible consumption’ unifies the works on display. Designers in this exhibition reimagine the life cycle of materials sourced from their immediate surroundings, crafting functional pieces and design objects from locally-sourced waste and natural materials.

Among the artists featured, Hamed Ouattara from Burkina Faso repurposes discarded objects, particularly oil drums, challenging the concept of disposability and highlighting global consumption disparities. Similarly, Estúdio Campana from Brazil transforms waste products, especially cotton rope, showcasing the transformative power of simple solutions and craftsmanship. British designer Max Lamb explores the potential of recycled cardboard, pushing its structural limits to create elevated designs.

One standout participant is Studio Raw Material from India, which uses discarded marble offcuts from nearby quarries to create puzzled compositions, connecting with the local material culture. Mexican designer Fernando Laposse repurposes avocado waste, challenging the socio-economic impact of the avocado industry.

In addition to material reuse, the exhibition also explores how designers are integrating technology into their work. British designer Paul Cocksedge uses coal in his work ’20 Trees’ to address carbon emissions, while Dutch designer Joris Laarman employs computational techniques to create bio-degradable plywood. Chilean studio gt2P utilizes volcanic lava drippings in their creations, blending parametric methodology with a deep appreciation for local materials and landscapes.

The exhibition also highlights designers who engage with natural processes. UK-based studio Full Grown grows furniture objects using photosynthesis, Israeli designer Erez Nevi Pana transforms loofahs using Dead Sea salt, and French designer Marlène Huissoud utilizes silkworm cocoons and bee resin to raise ethical questions about environmental impact.

“Under Present Conditions” provides a comprehensive look at how designers are tackling contemporary challenges through innovative material use and design processes. The exhibition celebrates the diverse approaches to responsible consumption and material experimentation in the design world today.

Custom furniture design plays a pivotal role in the exhibition, showcasing how designers are reimagining furniture through sustainable and innovative practices.

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