Exhibition in Yangon seeks to sell the idea of ‘upcycling’

04 December 2018
Exhibition in Yangon seeks to sell the idea of ‘upcycling’

Pure Gold, a design exhibition that is coming to Myanmar in December, presents the many ways that people all around the world upcycle or repurpose items in a way that creates value.

The objects shown in the exhibition, which will take place at the Secretariat in Yangon from 16 December 2018 to 6 January 2019, is based on the idea of Do It Yourself (DIY). 

The original purpose of their design and their use value or symbolic value are halted half-way and then returned to daily use by means of individual creativity and value-enhancing techniques. 

As Axel Kufus of Pure Gold explains, usage reduces the value of an item up to a point where it becomes worthless. It becomes a waste and burden to our world. But should it be?

The waste disposal industry has long ago recognised the valuable materials that make up waste; and has thus used diverse technologies to sort and regain these substances so that they can be reused in various ways.  Recycling, and in particular the downcycling of plastic, paper, textiles, glass, and metals are now widely established in many parts of the world, writes Mr Kufus.

As fresh foods, generations of technical consumer goods, and seasonal fashions that all travel the globe rapidly are all experiencing an even faster loss of use and symbolic value, there is no room for complacency. We are living from the world and not with it. We are using more than we are giving back – much more.

Lengthening the life cycles of products, beyond material and technical optimisation, is an obvious and an individual as well as a universal option. If products are used longer and for uses of all kinds, then new production becomes either unnecessary or at least slower.

This is not a matter of just securing an original use value, by repairing or upgrading. The loss of value can also be halted by expanded use, using something for a different purpose. This can even lead to new added value. Symbolic values can play a special role here, meaning the actual emotional relationship that people have with objects and their use of them.

Pure Gold works stand for a bottom-up principle which cleverly finds potential in the top-down strategies of value-diminishing use, and then uses this for expanded added value. This has long been the case, and is done in expert fashion everywhere, including in Myanmar, where scarcity and need make people inventive. 

Where everything seems to be available in abundance, these objects strongly and imaginatively assert the values that can be created from thrown away artefacts with new purposes and meanings.

Can these upcycling models contribute to new forms of appreciation and create new value? Can design cultivate the art of making something new out of something old, making the use of materials more varied in more contexts, and more long-lasting? 

These are the questions and issues that will be considered in the workshops that will happen in conjunction with Pure Gold and with the support of Myanmar hosts. This exhibition does not just want to show something but also to learn something. Myanmar artists, designers and local artisans will be invited to exchange practices and perspectives. 

Relevant material on the theme of upcycling is still underdeveloped in today’s popular forums in the globally expanding DIY maker and craft communities, even if there is a growing exchange of video clips with instructions for repair and construction. By actively posting Pure Gold clips that refer to the current exhibition tour and to our local workshops, we wish to further encourage, diversify and disseminate information on this significant upcycling movement.