It’s Our F***ing Backyard: Designing Material Futures is an inspiring exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. It showcases designers from around the world responding to Climate Change and the Climate Crisis; rethinking the use, reuse of modern materials and the loss of traditional materials and practices.

The other morning over breakfast, before even planning my visit to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; rather than enjoying the meal that was setting me up for the day, my brain was already racing with thoughts of adaption and mitigation of Climate Change and the Climate Crisis. I caught myself thinking…

What if we were to take a moment and look at the Climate Crisis in a completely different light? One of endless, new possibilities. What do we see when we really take the time to grasp this concept? 

Researching this on my phone as I ate my cereal and drunk my juice, I discovered that many people and companies around the world have already began to think this way. They have realised that this is an unprecedented opportunity. Unlike anything we have seen in Human history. Not only to save our planet, but one for innovation to reshape our future world. Be it for personal or social responsibility, or simply they are business minded and see the trends showing this is where future money is to be made. 

Now Admittedly, there is life threatening consequences of Climate Change and the Climate Crisis, with an urgent deadline pushing us in the direction to do so!

And I think is fair to say also that we the world, particularly for those of us who are yet to really experience and feel the impact of the climate change, we are just waking up to the fact that not one of us will escape our responsibilities of behaviours and practices to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate of this climate emergency.

Achieving Net Zero by 2050

We know that to achieve Net Zero by 2050. We have to develop new ways of producing just about everything. It’s a huge challenge. And this had me thinking. How is mitigation and adaptation of the Climate Crisis influencing designers from around the world?

Visting the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

In my episode this week for my YouTube Channel Gregg The Artivist, I had the opportunity to take a small trip up the train tracks to visit an exciting exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, ‘Its our f***ing backyard – Designing Material Futures’.

The Stedelijk Museum kindly granted me permission to film the exhibition in search of my answer. Moreso, I had the pleasure of meeting with Industrial Design Curator and Co-Curator of ‘Its our f***ing backyard’, Ingeborg De Roode. 

“We were looking for pieces that designers and companies are trying to figure out what they can do for the climate crisis” Ingeborg explains about the exhibition. Ingeborg went  on to inform me that there are many strategies designers have from using less materials, natural materials to seeking answers from history using local craft-based knowledge that have been largely ignored or forgotten since the rise of industrial technologies in the 19th century. I find this incredibly exciting as we are so often looking for the development of new technologies to solve the problems of today, how often do we take a step back to look at how things have been done in the past?

Picture of Industrial Design Curator, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Co-Curator of ‘Its our f***ing backyard’, Ingeborg De Roode
Industrial Design Curator, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Co-Curator of ‘Its our f***ing backyard’, Ingeborg De Roode

The exhibition is divided into a number of sections from experiments to products that are readily available for us to buy today. “We as visitors can also see what choices we have available to us. It’s (the exhibition) is also about raising awareness not only with the public, but also with designers and companies. So we really hope this exhibition will make an impact” Ingeborg tells me.

Showcasing how a Museum can adapt to the changing Climate

The exhibition also shows what the Stedelijk, as a Museum can do in its adaption to climate change and the climate crisis. “There are always many pieces that need to be built for exhibitions. What our exhibitions designers, called Envisions have done for us, is to only use materials that are either reused, recycled or borrowed” Ingeborg tells me and shows a great example of this. The raised staging around the exhibition is using panels of sound proofing/ isolation from the sides of motorways. The panels where borrow and will be return for the recycling process at the end of the exhibition. 

Designer’s Examples

As we continues around the exhibition, Ingeborg showed other examples of inspirational works from designers such as; 

DJ, Peggy Gou with design studio Space Available’s Peggy Chair, 2021. Together they joined forces to create a chair made of 20 kilograms of plastic trashed collected in Indonesia. It is a truly waste-free product with no glues, nails or screws used during the production process. 

Gregg The Artivist | Peggy Chair 2021 by Peggy Gou and Space Available. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Peggy Chair, 2021 – Peggy Gou and design studio Space Available

“It means it can be recycled again which is very important. Even when you use recycled material, it is very important that you can recycle it again.”

 Dutch designer Joris Laarman’s experimental piece Greenprinting, 2022 is an exciting concept bringing together technology and nature to look for solutions to make cleaner environments in our cities. The robot hangs from cables and it can print moss-based graphics on the outer shell of buildings. 

Imagine of Dutch Designer, Joris Laarman's Greenprinting for Gregg The Artivist Interview at Stedelijk Museum
Greenprinting, 2022 – Joris Laarman

“The design possibilities are endless and the moss purifies the air and promotes biodiversity” explains Ingeborg.

Finally, despite there being many techniques for glazing ceramics, the glaze itself is often toxic and can not be removed from ceramics and therefore can not be recycled ending in landfill.  We look at designer Yoon Seok-Hyeon’s OTT / Another Paradigmatic Ceramic, 2019 that offers an alternative solution for glaze, by looking into our past at local craft-based techniques using a Korean ott resin called Ottchil. 

“He uses ottchil as a glaze as it can evaporate with raised temperatures, meaning that when it comes off the ceramic, it can be recycled. And if this can be used in an industrial production setting, this could really make a big difference.”

There were so many more exciting works offering all sorts of possibilities for the future. Which you can see some of these in my video here.

The Future History

The future history’s section of the exhibition brought to my attention, the relationship of the climate, science and European imperialism. And how research shows that, for a large part, the roots of the climate crisis lie in colonialism. 

Now All too often, especially myself, when thinking or talking of the climate crisis, its all about the science based evidence of the increased levels of C02 since the industrial revolution. And that might be because its a simple, evidence based explanation that everyone can understand. And it directly is relatable to our process of emissions nowadays, how we caused them and the effect they have. 

Colonialism at the Heart of the Climate Crisis

However this exhibition brings to the forefront Colonialism: the appropriation of land and the exploitation and destruction of not just nature, but humankind and animal life. 

And how this imbalance of power still exists nowadays in form of multinational companies and our governments. 

Moreso, how since the industrial technologies of the 19th Century, local craft-based knowledge has been largely ignored or become obsolete. So for me it was impressive and inspiring to see how some designers are using this as their starting point.

Now although ‘It’s our F***ing Backyard’ doesn’t claim to be an artistic activism exhibition, more a rounded, balance of creating awareness, and displaying works from experimental stages to products we can buy today… 

I do have criticism with two particular pieces…

The Ikea PET Plastic box with lid and Adidas, made to be remade trainers. You can see my comments about these in my video here

Was The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam able to Answer my Question?.. YES!

That said, was my question answered by this exhibition..Yes, there was a board scope of ideas  to which some of it was very inspiring. And did it ask more of me? Most definitely. 

It reminded me of the human perspective of the climate crisis over the science alone. I have already began to learn this of course, with beginning to understanding peoples climate anxiety and the psychology of the Climate Crisis. But now adding this recognition of colonialism, it certainly reinforces to me, the fragile and complex nature of everything, not only within the environment that is entwined, but our actions, beliefs and practices in our past and future actions between humanity, and nature. And what a fine balance act we need to hone to achieve a life more in symbiosis with our planet.

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Website and Tickets

“Its Our F***ing Backyard: Designing Material Futures” runs til 04th September 2022, at the Stedelijk Museum Amsteram. You can visit their website here for more details and to buy your tickets

Disclaimer: This is purchasing directly from the Museum. I do not earn any commission, or have any involvement whatsoever with these sales. Furthermore, this is not an article or video of promotion for the Exhibition or the Stedelijk Museum. This is not a sponsored or paid for editorial or video. The Stedelijk kindly granted me permission on my request to film and interview to answer my questions. My opinions are solely my own.

If you liked this video, be sure to check out my video ‘Do Our Youth Really Care About The Climate Crisis?’

Click on link here to see the episode.

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