…our entente with nature will be re-written and re-invented;
we will try to live together in a more harmonious way,
giving and taking, and caring for each other.
– Lidewij Edelkoort
Back in 2017, friend and trend forecaster Lidewij—also known as Li—Edelkoort, partnered with fellow curator Philip Fimmano to curate an exhibition titled “Earth Matters.” The exhibit’s theme addresses sustainability and the need to respect the Earth and its natural resources. Li explained, “For too long we have ruthlessly consumed our Earth’s assets and drained it of its resources. Forests become furniture, oceans are polluted and minerals are over-mined. For future generations, it is crucial to consider a new approach: a transformation from over-consumption towards sustainable development that is in harmony with nature, with increased respect for our environment and for each other.” The two curators developed their premise through four themes: Honouring Origins, Collecting Ingredients, Reinventing Materials, and Sustaining Production. More than 40 international designers, artists, and manufacturers were featured throughout.
“Interwoven”, 2017 by Diana Scherer for “Earth Matters: Woven Wheat.” Earth Matters exhibition curated by Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano.
Through the Honouring Origins section, the participant is urged to remain mindful of where materials that comprise our surroundings and belongings come from. What is the origin of the fiber, the wood, the ingredients we use? And what workpeople or artisans participate in the making of the objects we own? The Collecting Ingredients portion highlights those who research and use organic ingredients and avoid pollution and waste. The Reinventing Materials section explores material as an impactful opportunity for forward-thinking designers to embrace innovation and create while maintaining the connection to nature. Through the Sustaining Production portion, viewers can discover designers who are focusing on long-term, feasible solutions to wasteful production processes. Featured in this portion are designers who create with little to no use of chemicals or water, are energy efficient, and/or are locally focused – including makers who have found an innovative way to revive cottage industry-inspired techniques, much in the way that Alabama Chanin works with its independent contractors.
“UK London Leyton” by Lucie Libotte for “Earth Matters: Dust Matter.” Earth Matters exhibition curated by Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano.
“Earth Matters: Installations with a View” by Piet Hein Eek (cabinet); design by Humberto & Fernando Campana, Anke Louwers, Marjan van Aubel, Sanne Muiser, Debbie Wijskamp, Tomáš Libertíny, Marlene Huissoud, Jólan van der Wiel, Thomas Vailly & Laura Lynn Jansen for the Earth Matters exhibition curated by Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano.
By approaching their themes in this four-part structure, Edelkoort and Fimmano are able to show the diverse techniques that designers and artists use to create more mindfully, such as studying our roots and history, sourcing materials thoughtfully, and utilizing responsible and ecological ingredients that benefit both maker and planet. They shine a light on members of the evolving art and design world who are working one-on-one with scientists and botanists to connect their work back to nature and back to the properties that sustain us. We see examples of how both natural and synthetic scraps or ingredients can be recycled and refashioned, with new and surprising purposes.
“Earth Matters: Botanical Beauty” by India Flint for the Earth Matters exhibition curated by Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano.
Earth Matters does not function to present a mere critical view of the design world, as much as it aims to celebrate the natural, the useful, the beautiful, and the innovative. Mother Nature is driving creativity in design more than any other single factor. This exhibition shows us how we can reduce consumption and increase creativity—perhaps creating a new approach to design as a whole. The curators call for reflection and change, in response to generations of abuse and greed; they see hope in emerging attitudes and schools of thought. As Edelkoort says, “Our entente with nature will be re-written and re-invented; we will try to live together in a more harmonious way, giving and taking, and caring for one another.”
“Earth Matters: Golden Joinery” for the Earth Matters exhibition curated by Lidewij Edelkoort and Philip Fimmano. Photo by Fan Liao.