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Surplus & Creativity: Design and the Readymade

Surplus & Creativity:
Design and the Readymade

An Exhibition
From Massey University's

Conservation House foyer, 18-32 Manners Street, Wellington.
Open to the public weekdays, 9am to 5pm ,18 November – 1 December 2009.
Part of the BLOW.o9 Festival

Click for big version

In the 21st century products of every kind, shape and form are manufactured at unprecedented rates, filling our homes, offices, and storage spaces. Collectively, thousands of hours of human effort are vested in these products through materials extraction, research and development, design, manufacture, marketing and sales.

When the lives of these products are over, they are dumped or discarded to storage.
These surplus ‘things’ still contain embedded value, untold stories, and the possibilities of different applications and life in a third age.

Surplus & Creativity: Design and the Readymade originated as a competition aiming to stimulate affiliates of Affect to engage in a playful and creative way with the concept of the readymade.

This concept, introduced into the art world in 1913 by Marcel Duchamp with his kinetic sculpture, Bicycle Wheel, describes the practice of working with found or purchased ‘made’ objects.

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‘Coffee Table’ (2009) Wendy Neale

It was developed as a strategy in the design world in the 1980s with the work of London-based Israeli Ron Arad. Subsequently the products designed by Brazil’s Campana brothers and Amsterdam’s Droog have popularised the readymade theme, which has continuing and increasing relevance in the 21st century.

The competition brief was to recontextualise surplus or discarded objects and things to produce a new vision of use, understanding or comment. The suggested categories were: sculptural and art installation; fashion and wearable art; material and textile design; product and lighting design; and furniture design.

The project aimed to attract entries infused with immediacy, action and creativity; to generate fun, humour, argument, and discussion; and to provide the opportunity to publicly exhibit and celebrate the best of our creative efforts.

Contestants rose admirably to the challenge of recontextualising (Wendy Neale’s Bearing Ring); reforming (Holly McQuillan’s Precarious Cut); recombining (Brandon Syme’s Catunga Pole); and rearranging (Jürgen Waibel’s Ready-Made Sediment) these discarded readymade items.

Victims or Renovation’ (2009) Sue Prescott

The entries stimulate and provoke outrage and humour (David Cassells’ Scooby Dooby Don’t); make social and political comment (Chris and Nicola Jackson’s Bean Bag Bench); and embody imagination and creativity (Sue Prescott’s Formica Walls & Sofa Covers, Victims of Renovation?) and innovation (Ben Paton’s Conspicuous Consumption).

The exhibition design itself responds to the competition brief, reusing waste materials drawn from warehouse storage en route to recycling. The obsolete canisters and their packaging gain new life as structural elements in the exhibition and will live again at its conclusion. The cardboard will be returned for pulping and the manufacture of paper; with some canisters distributed to the exhibitors for use as emergency water storage, and the surplus to be returned to the recycling process to make new plastic based products.

Part of our appreciation and grasp of readymade art and design is because the origins and contexts of the items are within our own experience.

‘Anemone’ (2009) Lans Hansen

These objects communicate directly and personally with the viewer. This accessibility can blind us to the complexity involved in the design and making of these exhibition pieces. These apparently simple and perhaps quirky objects are never the less the result of considered thought and engagement with the design brief.

This work engages with the environment, with materialism and with consumer culture. The low-tech strategies employed to design and make these readymade objects are valid now and will likely continue to be valid in the future.

Direct, immediate, these pieces have the power to persuade.

Rodney Adank
Acting Director

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