A critical material exploration / Fall 2023

By: Elida Iben Høvik and Luca Verde

LIVING SURFACE is a critical material exploration, questioning the synthetic surface. 
According to recent research, paint accounts for 58% of all the microplastic that ends up in the ocean every year. Additionally, The European Union Action Against Microplastics Report published Fall of 2023, confirmed that paint and coatings account for the largest microplastic pollution worldwide. 
Gaining this insight triggered an engagement. Synthetic surfaces started to reveal themselves, covering the materials around us. 
Although we have come far with demands for materials with recycled or bio-based content, there is a lack of similar demands for surfaces. By looking at the surface as a material of its own, we began thinking of ways design could raise awareness on this matter. Leading to our thesis question;
– how might we reveal hidden processes to challenge the contemporary aesthetic of the surfaces that surround us?
The outcome is a handbook, a vocabulary, a video, and an artifact that together showcases an alternative now. By using comparison as a visual tool, we are suggesting a shift from synthetic to living surfaces - encouraging an altered perception of how a surface should look and behave.  

We created a vocabulary of contrasts to understand the framework of change that we were aiming for. A tool to compare and discuss the shift from the synthetic surface to the living. Formed as flip cards making hidden processes visible, with descriptions of both production methods and aesthetic expressions.
Moving images communicate the vocabulary in a visually engaging manner, narrating the shift from synthetic surfaces to the living.
The handbook is created as a guide alongside our material explorations. It is a source for people wanting to learn and experiment with natural pigments and binders themselves. A tool that can be built upon and continue the discussion. 
The artifact is a physical object bringing the ‘alternative now’ into materiality, showcasing our material exploration. The artifact facilitates comparison through several changeable parts. These are placed on a structure that impersonates the living surface.
Finally, we documented the process in a book: