Living in London, or any major city can feel like a disconnect in relation to our interactions with nature. Wrapped up in our own lives we become oblivious to the materials which make up the world around us and their impact on the planet. Before industrialization, our choices around furniture were not only utilitarian and stylistic but seeped into the history of where we came from. Local forests providing the wood in which homes were built create a much deeper connection and awareness to our surrounding natural world. Today, there is a gap between the consumer and the raw material. Until July 18th, ‘From the Forest’ is on display at the V&A’s furniture gallery questioning this phenomenon of the modern world and asking us what can the forest teach us?
Located at the very top of the Victoria and Albert Museum the furniture gallery is a grand hallway that takes you on a journey through time via the art of chairs. We often don’t think about where we place our bums, but furniture design is an informative visual timeline of design throughout history. Placed at the entrance of the hall is the ‘From the Forest’ installation, surrounded by various styles of furniture spanning from ornate gilded Baroque to simple and sleek Bauhaus. The display focused on various works touching upon themes of the consequences of the use of natural materials on the environment and where these materials come from. Works such as Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw’s “Well Proven Chair” highlight the amount of waste the timber industry creates. Using wood shavings and chips left over, they bonded the materials with bio-resin to create a new piece of furniture. As described by the artists, “This chair derives its brutal and anarchic appearance from an ethos of resourcefulness.”
From the Forest not only celebrates the innovations of designers striving for sustainability but also serves as a reminder to appreciate nature and all it has to offer us. A piece that sticks out to me is ‘009 Bowls’ by Mac Collins. He created bowls from pine, an overlooked species of wood that is considered to be less desirable. Crafting these pieces proves how meaningless our valuing system is. The work highlights the beautiful colour of pine and its ability to become a high-quality product despite its poor reputation. Who are we to decide, as mere guests on this planet, that natural material is inferior?
My only critique of ‘From the Forest’ is that I wish there was more. The small installation is tiny but mighty and each piece that was displayed was engaging and touched upon many facets and nuances of the climate crisis and the conversations surrounding it.
From the Forest is a free installation at the V&A until July 18th. For more info click here: https://www.vam.ac.uk
Photo taken by Mia (see biog below)
Reviewed by Mia Goodman – Mia is currently finishing up her Art Direction degree at the University of the Arts London. Coming from an Italian-American background and living in both countries allowed her to explore her interests in traveling, cooking and the arts. Her passion for sustainability has led her to explore the intersectionality between the environment and creative industries.