One of our favorite exhibits at this year's Milan Furniture Fair was Loaded, which brought together 15 students and emerging designers from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) to explore the history, physicality, and currency of two catalytic materials: iron and sugar. Designer Brian Anderson explains: “Sugar and iron are two materials that represent the American history quite well, with references to the times of slavery as well as the glorious industrial days.” Read on for a look at the innovative designs on display -- from lighting to tableware and jewelry.
The Loaded exhibit encouraged designers to ask questions about the value of everyday objects. It explores the fluidity of currency and how objects are shaped by global systems of trade, cultural ideologies, desire and emotions – whether we are aware of it or not. The sight of this exhibition during a week packed with glossy, shallow, and ill-conceived products was a welcome mental break. Even though the theme of the show may have been imposed on the students, it works, and one leaves feeling a bit relieved that there still are responsible and aware designers out there.
Brian Anderson showcased a metal necklace that he described as “part jewelry, part cloak, part cartwheel ruff, part affluence”. Cake, as it’s called, is a piece communicating the polarities of having something while wishing to consume it too.
Won Joon Lee experimented with the use of sugar as a light source. His modular Stardust light is illuminated by a set of sugar LEDs that exist in a state between taste and sight.
Nathan D. Paoletta interpreted the exhibition’s theme more concretely and made objects out of coins and various consumer goods that are worth the exact value of 20 US Dollars. With More Than It’s Worth he questions the value of things in a digitally connected, abstract world.
Charlie McArthur took a similar approach and made dishes in cast iron. The project’s title is Division, which address the income distribution around the world based on statistical models of wealth.
Zhe Zhang explored the way that sugar dissolves into invisible sweetness in food, which we only can taste. Her objects, Visible Sweetness, are designed for different kinds of sugar to make the act of sweetening food visually rich.