LONDON, UK — For most of us, shipping a piece of contemporary ceramic art across the country is one of the most stress-inducing things imaginable. Kicked out of safety like a baby bird learning to fly, absolutely anything could happen to a vase once it’s being transported.
But what if that wasn’t the case? What if transportation could be part of the process, adding emergent features that couldn’t have been planned? That’s what London-based artist Ying Chang did with her project The Journey — 5,585 Kilometres. Two vases, one blue and one white, were placed inside steel contraptions that look like iron maidens for ceramics.
Device one, Damaged is lined with sharp pieces of metal that scratch the vase as it travels in its shipping crate. Device two, The Seismometer, uses panels lined with thick, blue pens to mark the vase. Device two gets its name from a seismograph and, like such devices chart the movement of the Earth, the device is a record of the vase’s trip. The distance measurement in the title is a reference to the distance from London to the vases’ destination in New York City. They arrived just in time for New York Design Week. Chang states:
“The journey is a series specially designed tools for shipping, which encourage movements within packaging to create unique marks. The marks illustrate the impact, condition and distance of the travel, visualising the journey of geographically distributed objects. Each object will have its very unique and unpredictable patterns as their shipping and handling history recorded by the devices, even if they were shipped through the same route and method.”
Beyond subverting a common fear about shipping, Chang’s work speaks to passivity in the shipping process. The movement of goods used to be more local, more participatory. But now, with the dearth of brick and mortar stores and the rise of companies like Amazon, one doesn’t need to leave the home to fill one’s home with junk. I go out to a store for groceries alone and in some cities even that is starting to go away as eager online retailers will send someone to your apartment with 500 cans of soda at ten at night if you want. The consumer is almost completely inert in this scenario, but they’re about to be joined by the men and women who work in shipping. It’s difficult to see a self-driving car and not realize that a businessman would see that as a way to squeeze a few more pennies from the company’s expenses.
Direct the robots to stack the new boxes on the pile.
Chang is a designer with more than eight years of experience in retail design. She graduated from Design Products at the Royal College of Art in 2014.
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