Installed at The University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menominee, WI, plastic drop cloths, transparent packing tape, air mattress valve
The Hippie Modernism movement in the 1960s effectively combined the space-age optimism of the time with a return-to-nature, non-Western ideology. New technologies allowing further increased production and unprecedented scientific advancements were co-opted by modernity’s hippie other as a means of collective betterment and artistic self-expression. Alternative shelter and furniture options were explored, including the expandable Dymaxion house and inflatable chairs. Materials for living were replaced with air, an apt parallel to the hippie’s stress on fulfilling primal, basic needs; what is more essential to survival than air?In this inflatable sculpture, a gateway is created in the space it sits, allowing for the passage of a body through it. As it expands, the trapped air in the piece conforms to and describes the space it inhabits as much as it describes the shape of the body moving through. The piece has a sense of play, but that play is directional; there’s only one way to interact with the piece and only one destination it can reach. Technology informs reality, then reality imparts on technological advance causing a movement further, but we’re not sure in which direction. If we’re eager to interact and consume products, where is that rapid consumption ushering us toward? Design has become merely an inducement to consume and a codifying of the bourgeois model of society and ownership rather than an enrichment strategy for positive advancement. This piece asks where that positive advancement lies, in what direction, and whether we’re being ushered toward or away from it. It also answers its own question; as the piece ushers the viewer through it, it is also slowly deflating. The durational quality of the work is planned, much like the failure of designed products is planned in order to promote further future consumption.
Remnant (Scratch & Sniff)
Installed at The University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menominee, WI, deconstructed plastic air mattress, glass jar, metal straw, oat milk, audio recording
As an exploration of discarded material and waste, which is an inevitable byproduct of production and an underutilized one currently, this piece became a mournful swan song of a large plastic byproduct from the previous piece. I cut out and reinstalled the valve on an air mattress in order to inflate Cybernetic Orchard, leaving the rest of the air mattress void of its intended purpose, leaving only the imprint of its material makeup, as is the nature of discarded goods. In the installation, a recording of the sounds the mattress made as I tore it apart with my hands played, inducing a collaboration between the visual and the auditory and giving a full sensorial picture of what the death of this product looked and sounded like. The glass of oat milk with straw accompanying the carcass also includes bits of torn mattress, inviting the viewer to drink the pieces in. The mattress itself has been turned inside out, revealing its interior; the mattress then asks politely if it may be ingested by the viewer, revealing their insides as well. In order to fully understand the essence of a product, the essence of consumption, we must participate in it as well. In doing so, we become the product; as we drink them in, we become nourished by them and thus, become them more and more. And once we lose our purpose, consumption, we are culturally discarded as remnants of a previously productive and capitalistic-serving ideal.
Alesia Meulemans (she/her/they) is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Industrial Design from the University of Wisconsin -Stout. Her experience and knowledge with the field of product design inform her view on what the future of products looks like; sustainability is discussed at length in her courses and is included in all the design work she does, but at the same time, so is appealing to market space and fitting into a brand language. This seems contradictory, as sustainable practices cannot exist in a system still predicated on serving consumerism and profiteering. She also explores the way her discipline upholds a cisheteropatriarchal structure that discourages the values of those in her demographic. Knowing she and her peers will be contributing to product development in the next few years, she wants to bring to light what consumer culture is doing to both our bodies, our planet, and our sociocultural relationships with each other.