Plant Fever – Towards a Phyto-centred Design
Museum für Gestaltung Zurich, Toni-Areal
December 03, 2021 – April 03, 2022
Carbon footprint, climate change, food: we urgently need to rethink our relationship to nature! Plants play a central role here, inspiring designers, scientists, and engineers to devise innovative solutions to current environmental and social issues. The exhibition Plant Fever at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich brings together some fifty international projects from the fields of product design, fashion, and new technologies that demonstrate various ways to tap plants’ hidden potential.
For centuries, humans have been accustomed to seeing plants merely as raw material and a decorative element. Because their movements are so much slower than those of animals, plants appear to be motionless and are thus relegated to the role of background scenery. But now people everywhere are starting to look at flora with fresh eyes.
Current debates concern not only a sustainable lifestyle or veganism but also the question of plant intelligence and rights. The latest scientific findings and philosophical reflections suggest that we humans need to rethink our relationship to the plant world and challenge the traditionally accepted dualism of human versus nature. “We should try to think like plants”, says American ecologist Ian Baldwin, whose words have inspired numerous designers, scientists, and people primarily involved in the world of technology. Many have come to view plants as potential allies in addressing current and future problems in both environmental policy and society.
Plant Fever looks at the future of design not from a people-oriented perspective but through the lens of the plant world. Vegetation is seen here not only as a source of food, raw material, or recreation but as a vital part of the design process. The designers represented in the exhibition have come up with novel solutions based on a close study of structures and behaviors in the plant world.
One example is Piñatex ®, a non-woven fabric made from pineapple byproducts that is used in fashion and, more recently, as vegan leather for car seats. The Notweed Paper project aims to produce paper on an industrial scale from Japanese knotweed, a plant that has become notorious as a highly” invasive species in Europe. A set of 3D-printed sex toys that aid in plant fertilization by insects focuses attention on vegetal reproduction. Are plants in fact intelligent, finding their own solutions to problems? Plant neurobiology offers some surprising answers.
Plant Fever is an exhibition with both political and social dimensions. It takes a firm stand, raises questions, and challenges the audience to engage in a positive and constructive dialogue. This discourse will unfold not only in front of and inspired by the exhibits but also online and on Instagram, supplemented by a program of lectures and workshops. The exhibition was conceived by the design studio d-o-t-s and produced at the CID (Centre d’innovation et de design) – Grand-Hornu in Belgium. The curatorial team for Plant Fever explored fundamental ideas about the relationship between people and plants, examining the potential of plants beyond their use as a resource or decorative object.
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