Sometimes I wonder whether pop culture throws up the most evocative and moving messages about sustainability and over-consumption.
Take indie pop wonders Johnny Boy, for example, and their genius 2004 release You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve. Not only is this, for me, one of the best pop songs of the last decade, but its swirling, euphoric wall of sound pops into my head whenever I contemplate acquiring more shoes, like a voice from the sustainability gods.
In my head, this 7" single is filed next to the 'Shoe Event Horizon' passage in Douglas Adams' (also genius, of course) Restaurant At The End of the Universe:
Many years ago, this was a thriving, happy planet – people, cities, shops, a normal world. Except that on the high streets of these cities there were slightly more shoe shops than one might have thought necessary. And slowly, insidiously, the numbers of these shoe shops were increasing. It’s a well known economic phenomenon but tragic to see it in operation, for the more shoe shops there were, the more shoes they had to make and the worse and more unwearable they became. And the worse they were to wear, the more people had to buy to keep themselves shod, and the more the shops proliferated until the whole economy of the place passed what I believe is the termed the Shoe Event Horizon, and it became no longer economically possible to build anything other than shoe shops. Result – collapse, ruin and famine. Most of the population died out. Those few who had the right kind of genetic instability mutated into birds – you’ve seen one of them – who cursed their feet, cursed the ground, and vowed that none should walk on it again. Unhappy lot.
Are we approaching Shoe Event Horizon? With a fashion industry built on ever-increasing volumes of production which shows no regard for the consequences, it sure feels like it to me.
Earlier this year I took part in the Knowledge Exchange in Design (KED) scheme, organised by BIAD Research. My residency was at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery - I worked with the Applied Art curators to consult with visitors about the forthcoming redevelopment of the Applied Art ceramics displays in the museum's Industrial Gallery.
I proposed to use creative research methods as a consultation tool, and together we developed the idea of 'The Curation Game': a participatory drop-in activity where visitors are invited to select five items from a collection of twenty ceramic objects, and to create their own display.
By analysing the comments that visitors made as they created their displays, I was able to write a report for the museum drawing out interesting themes, ideas and suggestions, and including a number of practical recommendations for the redisplay.
Find out more in the film!