How Can We Solve Environmental Issues for Our Future

2021.2.24

<Plastic Currency>, a Project About Plans for Solving Environmental Problems

<Plastic Currency> is an environmental research project by designer Taiho Shin who works with spaces and materials, new media artist Jong-gook Won who uses arts and technologies for his work and sound artist Gang-il Yi. These three artists ponder over social systems and human life which plays a key role in forming those systems. They also think about how we could stir up discussion on environmental issues which have only been reasonably and logically dealt with, in our everyday life.

Thinking and Connecting Human-Environment Relations In Terms of Materials Research and Design

Taiho Shin is the CEO of material-centered design lab, “LAB.M.0″. Various research projects on materials have reached the present situation. The present situation is a zero base for Shin and from this zero base, Shin tries to find applicable ways for satisfying demands. Although materials research is intended for developing “eco-friendly” materials, Shin wants to go beyond that, develop materials that can actually improve the environment and suggest the goals and direction new industries in the future must strive for. In this project, Shin takes a materials research and design-focused approach to tackle one of his tasks which is to promote plastic recycling.

Jong-gook Won who has given himself a new identity, “Unhappy Circuit”, has been actively incorporating contemporary media like AI and electronic music which are based on technology, into his creative process. Media made Won interested in human-technology relations and have also led Won to make multidisciplinary attempts to capturing the similarities between computer processing and how humans process emotions. His attempts show us how clearly different the spirit of our age is from the conventional ways of using media or creating meaning and, allow us to think about the meaning of human existence. Through these multidisciplinary attempts, Won tries to break away from a human-centered perspective.

Gang-il Yi is a member of an artist group called “Weather Report” which uses live streaming for their work. Yi uses computer programming elements like algorithms and coding as his media and allows the audience to experience the concepts of physical time and space that the media changes. Placing mechanical methodology and artistic experience next to each other, Yi creates a space for discussing and understanding what’s in between them. Similarly, through <Plastic Currency>, Yi connects humans and environment with technology and explores the possibility of human–environment interactions.

These three artists with different backgrounds and interests, focus on a common material, “plastic”. More specifically, they focus on the ways plastics harm the environment and the solutions to those environmental issues. Finding the clues for those solutions starts with the awareness of today’s situation where plastics are not being properly recycled even though they are so convenient to produce and consume. Shin, Unhappy Circuit and Yi want us to think more productively towards plastics instead of producing, consuming and disposing of them so easily as if they don’t matter to our lives. This change in our way of thinking is possible only if we can see plastics not as disposables but resources for our future. By presenting a disconnected system caused by today’s problematic waste disposal system and failing recycling system, Shin, Unhappy Circuit and Yi want to visualize the detrimental consequence of capitalist obsession with efficiency and turn this “disconnected system” into a virtuous, circular economy.

Data Visualization System that Measures Capitalist Costs of Environmental Crisis Brought Upon by Excessive Reliance on Plastic Use

Shin, Unhappy Circuit and Yi’s interest in materials, spaces, humans, identity and senses, has eventually led them to explore data and realize the data. Environmental issues are a public matter closely related to our future. Through <Plastic Currency>, Shin, Unhappy Circuit and Yi have created a data visualization system that measures actual capitalist costs of environmental crisis brought upon by plastic use and are trying to remind us how these costs impact our private, everyday lives. Shin, Unhappy Circuit and Yi’s artistic approach unveils the hidden social structure between arts and technology which are two conflicting values. Also, it brings fundamental indicators that define our individual existence to the surface and allows us take a new look at twisted and problematic value systems of our society.

Environmental Issues We Cannot Avoid for Humanity’s Future

Taiho Shin who designs spaces and products, multidisciplinary media artist Unhappy Circuit and sound artist Gang-il Yi started this project with a clear focus on humanity’s future and solving environmental issues. Pondering over how we can improve our way of living which is closely linked to this group structure called society, Shin, Unhappy Circuit and Yi imagine practicable measures that can solve the plastic issues humanity is facing today. To suggest an alternative solution to plastic recycling, Shin, Unhappy Circuit and Yi visualize the structure and process of plastic recycling and present us the prototypes of useable products and distribution process. This project reminds us the exchange value of plastics and allows us to be aware of the fact that plastics are not just disposables but a resource. Shin, Unhappy Circuit and Yi want to connect today’s “disconnected system” and establish a virtuous cycle of material recycling for environmental preservation.

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