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Human Resources: Productivity

Arina Shokouhi
Written by
Teleri Lloyd-Jones
Published date
27 September 2022

What is the meaning and value of work? Currently on show in the Lethaby Gallery, Human Resources is our London Design Festival exhibition bringing together work by 2022 graduates from across disciplines. The exhibition proposes creativity as the renewable energy in a time of scarcity and asks us to rethink what a resource can be, turning away from planetary to humanity.

Productivity can mean different things. Many of us work to create goods, services and capital within a wider system that measures and rewards our usefulness. Equally, production processes enable an appetite for consumption that benefits some, while harming others.

Mindless, endless production impacts our planet. How can human innovation replenish our relationship with the planet we all share? How can we take less and give more?

Our individual relationship with work is unique. What happens if we uncouple our labour from the metrics of productivity and transaction? Instead of always doing, we might also welcome the very human experiences of trying, failing and undoing, as well as simply being.

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    Arina Shokouhi, MA Material Futures
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    Arina Sokouhi, MA Material Futures

Ecovado by Arina Sokouhi, MA Material Futures

Avocado production is energy-intensive and resource-intensive: each avocado requires 320 litres of water to grow and the monoculture farms required to meet the global demand are driving the deforestation of some of the most diverse landscapes in the world. Ecovado is an alternative to avocado. It was designed by identifying the chemical elements of avocados and the functionality of each molecule to try to find equivalents from more local and low-impact sources that do not rely on threatened crops. By formulating the recipe from local ingredients, the flavour varies across production locations. Therefore, this first recipe that uses widely produced British ingredients will taste different than an Ecovado created in another country.

Materials: 210 hours waiting for the train, 52 hours peeling broad beans, six grey hairs and three wrinkles.

There objects in greys and browns on a grey stand
Lauren Goldie, MA Fine Art

Orbital Objects by Lauren Goldie, MA Fine Art

Goldie’s work explores the value of orbital objects in space. These objects, both natural and man-made, offer frequent contradictions between what is valuable, what is artefact and what is waste. Space travel is advertised as a humanitarian mission or salvation from an inevitable apocalypse, disguising its enormous economic and political value to investors.

Materials: Red sand, resin, and metal, seven "first drafts" of a research paper, five trips to the Science Museum, 37 sci-fi movies watches, 21 material samples made by hand, three carbon tests erupted out the mould, 12 partial test casts made, 49 sanding disks, 5 critiques, 42 days covered in dust and six evolutions of the initial concept.

What resource do you wish there was more of?

Time. Due to the way light travels, when we look back into outer space we see objects and celestial bodies as they were thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago. Time seems so rigid and restricted in the day-to-day, so it's exciting to see it warped and removed from our own restrictions in this way.

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    Barbara Yixuan Wei, BA Jewellery Design
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    Barbara Yixuan Wei, BA Jewellery Design

The Journey of Threads by Barbara Yixuan Wei, BA Jewellery Design

This series of work brings out the beauty within the process of defamiliarising ourselves with the fabrics, clothes and threads that we know so well. Through pulling the strings bit by bit out from the existing weaves, a meditative journey has been found, a longing performance that invokes excitement, boredom, tiredness and back to excitement again.

Materials: 22 hours of work, 22 years of my life = 192,700 hours

What resource do you wish there was more of?

Patience. It all takes time, to feel, to touch, to generate.

Journey of Threads

Barbara Yixuan Wei

Large sculpture, tilted grey tower with green scaffold at top and landscape of green mesh on around the base
Zhongge Sui, MA Fine Art (on show in Central Saint Martins 2022)

For Eternal Failure by Zhongge Sui, MA Fine Art

The how-to of success is always emphasised, why is there an absence of discussion over how to deal with failure, something that everyone has to confront? Zhongge Sui’s work embraces failure. This unstable installation reflects a future that is unstable for ourselves and our planet. How can we cope with, and overcome, failures? And can we, ultimately, seek value from it?

Materials: Over 100 replica productions, concrete-style pillars, wrapping constructions and countless failures.

What resource could you not do without?


Human Resources Creativity as Renewable Energy in a Time of Scarcity is on show at the Lethaby Gallery until 2 October.