Disrupting the Discourse

The sight of the above had us doubled over with laughter last week.

This was the delightful moment when a loaded-down and battered little car, piloted by a couple of appropriately shabby-chic designer-makers, puttered falteringly onto the Parliamentary estate to install an exhibition.

The content of said exhibition is examples of work by researchers from the Royal College of Art, all of whom are pursuing and developing new ways of recycling to generate useful materials. Their raw products include orange peel, pineapple fibre, fish scales, expanded polystyrene, and plastics of varying sorts. This work represents an important lesson about where innovation happens: these are artists as much as they are scientists and inventors. We need art schools as much as we do science labs. (Actually we need both, working together.) Coca-Cola, our obliging sponsor who also featured in the show, seemed as excited about getting to meet some new ideas courtesy of these students as they did about showing off their sustainable coke bottle in Parliament. And at a time when certain protesters not too far afield are generating publicity for disrupting church and city, this lot are making their political point about the excesses of capitalism by coming up with some genuinely useful suggestions and presenting them beautifully.

The exhibition design, owing to the provenance of its curators (congratulations to the lovely Naomi Turner for playing an absolute blinder), has the feel of a student crit, considerably more eye-catching than the usual dry fare of corporate pull-up banners and flat-screen TVs. In fact the acres of chipboard, far from looking out of place, complement the yellow stonework backdrop nicely.

Installed on Friday, launched last night, the opening was an unmitigated success, admittedly partly because of the plentiful flow of cheap white (and Coca-Cola of course), but also because it brought a group of people other than the usual be-suited suspects into Parliament. The mix of MPs, students, designers, start-up manufacturers, curators, sustainability experts and academics made for some unusual conversations. For an institution where the very act of saying something in a particular place is endowed with weighty significance, the act of these conversations happening between these people in this place, was a lovely and positive disruption of the norm. The design lot, as I affectionately term them, with their bright ideas and boundless energy, don’t get invited in nearly often enough. Not surprising since the place is dominated by economists, lawyers and historians who understandably have little to no idea they exist. They should pay more attention though – these people are inventing the future. The point of the APDIG is to facilitate more of the same of this kind of thing.

So whilst you might think the above looks like a picture of a red car in front of an old building, what it represents to me is a rather lovely sort of coup. Bloody cheers.

Credit to Oscar Wanless for the priceless photo and Thomas in the Park for most of the intellectual content herein, which I suspect I have stolen from his Masters thesis.

There are some proper pictures of the actual exhibition here.

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