Attempting to clarify the dissonance between the aesthetic value we attach to what we buy for my degree show questioned and confronted the ugly damage that the materials used to attain these values have on the natural world. My focus was to rethink the relationship we have with desirable products, where reviewing the superficiality and inharmoniousness of consumerism within a capitalist structure pushes me to consider the implications of purchasing a product when those purchases inevitably become waste, destroying human and non-human habitats.
In an urge to confront my own shopping habits and to question the differences between force-sold consumer goods, and the natural urge to buy; my work challenged society’s collective ideologies towards consumerism, desire and gluttonous identities. I began this project feeling challenged, where having to accept the fact that I myself, due to my experimental tendencies in the studio, it was inevitable that I was contributing to waste production and that anything I did somewhat would have a consequence on the environment. Becoming more mindful when creating new work in the studio was essential to my moral well-being. A better understanding of the raw materials used to create my art helps me to overcome my own contradictions about creating new work and exposing this internal conflict viewer, rather than trying to conceal it. Bringing this theme to the forefront of my work attempts to evoke ironic humour, but also remind the viewer just how much damage we are doing to the environment.
Influenced by Alison Hulme On the Commodity Trail: The Journey of a Bargain Store Product from East to West, which discusses the interesting yet terrifying histories of everyday objects. Hulme explains that the world today is “characterized by the desire for immediate gratification, disposability, the fragmentation of old systems”. Her research concludes that most commodities end up in a Chinese dumping yard, ironically sometimes in their country of manufacture - a vicious capitalist cycle. This led me to take the approach of tracing products back to their raw materials, allowing me to investigate how products are made, expose what they’re made of, and reveal their materiality.
Experiments within my practice leading up to my degree show piece led me to produce artwork that sits with the omnipresence of shop-bought, ‘hyped’ items, that the younger society is engaged with. Creating sculptures and paintings that depict ‘fake’ replicas of designer products - where they counteract the ‘real’ products placed alongside - questions whether they too belong to the world of hyper-capitalism.
Understanding the repercussions of over-consumerism on the planet invited me to research human-disturbed landscapes, I became fascinated with the world of fungi, where climate change alters their growing patterns. After a conversation with a friend, I was recommended to read Anna Tsing's The Mushroom at the End of the World, The Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet. Living amongst capitalist ruins Tsing explores multi-species extinctions within her writing and following matsutake mushrooms and their fungal spores she explores their interconnected relationship of them to foresters and large business corporations. Tsing explains how we refuse either to look away or reduce the earth's urgency to an abstract system of causative destruction, where the human species act within undifferentiated capitalism. The unexpected liveliness of mushrooms, where they rise and flourish in blasted landscapes, has helped me to better understand how these ruins have become our collective home, where the rise of these mushrooms show possibilities of coexistence within environmental disturbance.
Living with responsibility and exploring ongoingness inspired me greatly to incorporate mushrooms into my work, I experimented with the material by growing my own Mycelium. Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, branching off of it in thread-like hyphae. Mycelium is a well-known material in the sustainable fashion world, where designers, such as Stella McCartney, have used mycelium to create faux leather goods, which I found beneficial in the concepts that progressed in the process of making my work.
Growing and using Mycelium as a sculptural material expanded my research to concerns of permanence and fragility. The versatility of the material allowed me to cover the 3D prints of the trainer.
This exaggerates the neoliberal context of the artwork, particularly in the presence of a consumer-driven capitalist product. This sense of illusion and false identification referencing real and fake products demonstrates society’s need for pleasure. The artist’s work is desirable at first glance, but further inspection reveals the vulnerability of the object, through the fragility of the mycelium - exposing the concept that everything is derived from our environment, affecting humans and non-human species.
Incorporating both the readymade designer product intertwined with fungi, both in the botanical-inspired painting and the fabricated 3D sculptures alongside, articulates the issues of both; the capitalist structure that destroys our collective home, that is of human and nonhuman species, where mushrooms may grow after that, along with this idea of understanding where our products derive from, exploiting the initial stages of growth in any natural land that could result in being destroyed due to large business corporations using and destroying for profit.
Are we defined by how much stuff we have, and how much stuff we consume? No. Our generation is defined by how many choices we have, and that choice we have is a complete by-product of how much stuff we can consume. We are not the only species on this planet. I hope that my work can raise awareness, educate, and inspire you to reconsider your consumer choices. I encourage public discussion of these problems resulting from population pressures and industry inflation on land degradation.