The Platiglomerate Island: An Archive of Transformed Cultural Icons
Sumayya Vally and Stephen Hobbs
12R - An African Almanac
My Major Design Project is based on the speculation that the plastic objects we discard today, might one day be read as archaeological and anthropological artefacts by future generations. Our rampant consumerism will be what’s left of us; consumer objects will memorialise us in the future. But the consumer icons and products we have today speak of a globalised identity; a flattening of the cultural specificities that have always characterised human societies. The link between imperial expansion, colonisation and culture has been well documented, the imperial powers (Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal) spreading their culture around the globe at the expense of local, indigenous cultures. Today’s ‘imperial’ powers are multinational companies and global conglomerates, and the dominance of their cultural, racial and gender hierarchies reinforces this pattern (and simultaneously their own power relations) (Schiller, 1984:7) .
My project proposes an archive of today’s popular cultural artefacts and icons, sited on an artificial island of floating ‘waste’, similar to the North Pacific Garbage Patch. However, where the North Pacific Garbage Patch accumulates all waste, flattening specificity in terms of origin and use, The Plastiglomerate Island is an archaeo-anthropological snapshot of South Africa for future generations. Through critical techniques of subversion, signification and association, my project will deconstruct and destabilise dominant South African consumer patterns and habits to put forward a new, transformative culture, representing the cultural diversity of South Africa through the invention of a new cultural iconography, present both in the physical making of the archive, and in its collections.
In Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, Robert Venturi (1966) makes an argument for architecture as a signifier of meaning. Recognising the ongoing search for an authentic architecture resonant with multiple marginal identities, The Plastiglomerate Island reflects on this debate through a collection of collapsed, crashed and collided icons reconstituting themselves as new iconographic forms.
’When circumstances defy order, order should bend or break: anomalies and uncertainties give validity to architecture.’
― Robert Venturi
If we were to put together a time capsule of South African identities for our generation, what ‘anomalies and uncertainties’ might we create?