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Why don’t we highlight the forgotten qualities of Jute’s raw fiber? That’s the question Alexander Marinus’project HEY JUTE tries to answer and resolve. As Alexander says, we do not make use of Jute’s full potential, using it just for low-value, utilitarian, even invisible applications, and never as an aesthetic material. With this being said, we shall ask: When/why did The Golden Fibre turn into «low-value, utilitarian jute»?
Jute Innovation – A game-changer.
Alexander Marinus: The point I focus on in my practice is «opening up» the raw material to the design world, in order to stimulate innovation. While the industry screams «we need innovation! we need diversification!», some governments nationalize the jute industry by prohibiting the trade/export of raw jute fiber. The result: only global forces like IKEA have access to raw material for experimentation and anything they invent will be their private intellectual property. Protectionist laws slow down the problems/shrinking/decline of the jute industry, but not at all kickstarting open innovation.
And just to iterate once more: the world needs jute innovation. If we could learn how to replace a part of our current textile consumption (for example water-demanding cotton or petrol-based plastics in interiors) with this exceptionally ecological/sustainable material, the result would be a game-changer.
Alexander Marinus: When it comes to trends there’s always a thesis-antithesis-synthesis dynamic. The last re-appreciation of raw natural aesthetics has been happening for almost 20 years now, with design projects like Formafantasma’s Botanica following in 2011.
For around 10 years (roughly, I would say) very artificial/synthetic materials are very much desired again, also rooted in the blurring between digital/physical making, and very clear in the work of Iris van Herpen.
I think that now we are entering the synthesis phase: in terms of aesthetics, the natural/raw and the artificial/synthetic are not mutually exclusive. Au contraire, they enhance each other.
I think aesthetics should always have an extra dimension of communication. This can be about a philosophical/artistic reflection or an idea. Or, in the case of Hey Jute, about the context of the project, the nature of the material, about why we should appreciate jute for what it really is for the first time. To make a sustainable material more used, more desired, more appreciated, it would make sense to highlight its aesthetic qualities, right? And then the aesthetics become the function.
Featured Image: Alexandra Bertels / other Images: Alexander Marinus.