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Guy Keulemans & Kyoko Hashimoto

Artwork Title: 

Conglomerate Vases

Collaborative artworks:  ‘Conglomerate Vases’ first exhibited at A World We Don’t Want in 2021 curated by Friends & Associates for Melbourne Design Week, supported by the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). I also wrote a catalogue essay (kindly labelled a manifesto by the curators) for the World We Don’t Want exhibition here.

In 2022 the vases were displayed again at the inaugural Melbourne Design Fair as part of NGV Select, curated by Simone LeAmon and Ewan McEoin of the NGV.

The vases are created from polylactic acid polymer waste collected from Sydney makerspaces. We bind the scrap into a roughly cubed shaped blank with an epoxy resin and them mill out the vase using a robotic mill.

Epoxy resin is not a good material actually, but in this case serves the rhetorical point of illustrating how makers, designers and industry, are bound within a tight set of material constraints comprising an unsustainable system. In other words, there was not an easily accessible replacement for the use of epoxy resin in this work, and we chose this poor material to highlight that even though it is unsustainable, it is nonetheless inexpensive, legal and (for the most part) culturally acceptable. How do sustainable choices compete against convenience? Not well.

In any case, we collected the waste material from the floor of the robotic mill that shaped the vases and plan to use it in future vases. So for us the waste material became literal and figurative baggage that will carry around until we implement a cathartic reuse in a new design.

Below is the exhibition text for the work.

In geology, a conglomerate is a kind of sedimentary rock containing particulate objects in a cementious binder, such as clay or silica. Such  rocks are formal articulations of larger, unremitting processes of the earth; energetic forces that grind, melt, abrade and compress. 

In business, a conglomerate is a kind of corporation made up of smaller independent, often unrelated, businesses that operate for the benefit of the conglomerate meta-structure.

Business conglomerates have formal articulations too. These vases articulate the conglomerate of industrial waste-making machines. They bind waste materials together in a way that is often praised by design media as a sustainable recycling practice. But the conglomeration is indiscriminate: the work ignores the assortment problem of waste and tacitly condones the generation of waste in the first place. 

Why do we allow our materials to become so assorted that that easiest thing to thing to do with it is mash it up to create more stuff? This is the world we don’t want  – a world in which the accelerationist agenda for new products views existing materials and products as nothing more than food for the machine. 

The broader socio-technological conglomerates of waste-making machines is bound and cemented by regulatory policies that privilege capital expansion, economic growth and extravism; the processing and consumption of the earth.  Within this framing, design practices are smaller particulate activities subsumed by conglomerate forces of production, operated not necessarily consciously or even willing, but pressured by a smothering need for survival in larger economic structure.

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ARTIST BIOGRAPHY:

Guy Keulemans:

Guy Keulemans is a designer, artist and curator researching repair, reuse, materials and generative processes in the context of environmental sustainability. Guy has a Masters in Humanitarian Design from the Design Academy Eindhoven and a PhD from the University of New South Wales. An Enterprise Fellow at the University of South Australia, he is a member of the Creative People, Products and Places Research Centre (CP3) and associate member of the Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments (IVE). 

Guy has exhibited in museums and galleries across Europe including COCA in Poland and ARS Electronica in Austria. He has multiple works in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Victoria and has exhibited in and curated shows touring around Australia. Guy collaborates with designer and contemporary jeweller Kyoko Hashimoto, represented by Gallery Sally Dan Cuthbert in Sydney. He is currently funded by the Australian Research Council and has received past funding from Australian Council for the Arts, as well as NSW, ACT and South Australian state governments and industry.

Kyoko Hashimoto:

Kyoko Hashimoto is a Japanese-born artist, contemporary jeweller and critical designer. Migrating to Australia with her family when she was young, Kyoko later graduated with an Honours degree in Applied Arts from The University of New South Wales. After honing her craft working in Tokyo, Eindhoven and Berlin, she returned to Australia in 2010 and since has emerged into the forefront of the experimental design field with multiple acquisitions nationally, including the National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia and Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery. In 2014, she was Resident Artist at JamFactory in Adelaide and in 2021 completed an MFA researching the theory and practice of place-based making. The same year Kyoko and her collaborator Guy Keulemans were named one of 100 worldwide game changers in design by Architectural Digest, Italy. 

Kyoko utilises her multidisciplinary design practice to propose ethical and aesthetic challenges to the paradigms of material use in art, craft, design and industry. Working across critical and experimental craft and design, Kyoko advocates for new kinds of sensory engagement with materials and positions her work as tools to examine human relations to ecology. Her work expresses a fusion of traditional Japanese aesthetics and contemporary Australian design.

Kyoko has exhibited widely within Australia (Gallery Funaki, Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria among others), as well as exhibiting Internationally in countries including the UK, Japan, The Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany. She was one of 63 artists chosen from around the world to be represented at Schmuck 2022 Exhibition in Munich last year. Her work has been recognised in competitions including SOYA Qantas Spirit of Youth Award (2005 & 2006), Contemporary Wearables (2021), Luminex Design Files Award (2021) and with Guy Keulemans won the Waterhouse Natural Science and Art Prize (2022). She is represented by Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert in Sydney.

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