WRECK, the destruction of decorum, the ruin of culture. BENTU went deep into daily-use ceramics industry in Chaozhou, China, and tried to reveal the disintegration of culture behind this ancient city with huge industrial capacity and commercial value by exhibiting experimental furniture and installation, trying to reshape both the material and decorum.

What we see

Chaozhou supplies 70% of the total daily-use ceramic commodity for the world, becoming the world’s largest daily-use ceramics production base. Under the sweeping wave of globalization, ceramic industry connects Chaozhou with the world in an unprecedentedly close way. When the unstoppable process of modernization breaks down the traditional social order, the neat and orderly-planed old towns rapidly disappear, as well as the traditional rural culture that rooted in consanguinity.

The rapid development has brought here more than that. Under the stimulation of globalization, the traditional ceramic industry is abnormally expanding. On the one hand, as demand stimulates enormous production, ceramic enterprises are springing up, occupying a large number of local workers and attracting a large number of migrant rural people to come and work. The reorganization of internal social relation also awakens the individual consciousness of younger generation. For those countless individuals bonded in this huge industrial chain, how is struggle or desire like in such flood? Between past and present, the native and the migrant, how will people live on this land find the value of self-existence in the new era with fluid changes?

On the other hand, the ceramic enterprises keep repeating the traditional production mode with high waste rate, as the familism in this small region has resulted in conservative convergence. Along with the economic globalization, manufacturing industry moves to the area with lower labor cost, so Chaozhou becomes the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for numerous western enterprises, which exacerbates the increase of waste products counts. A recycling plant in Chao’an, a small in Chaozhou, recovers 1000 tons of waste ceramics per year. This is not only a cross section of ceramics industry in Chaozhou, but also the aftereffect of uneven global economic development. It is ironic that, the ban issued by the Chinese government, about no longer receiving 24 types of imported solid waste such as plastics, waste paper, waste slag, waste textiles, abandoned slag, etc, officially took effect from January 2018. As a result, half of the world’s “foreign garbage” needs another way out. However, in reality, garbage from home and abroad is still being dumped on this land in various forms of waste.

What we do

Behind the huge output and commercial value of the industry are severe problems of dumping price, excess capacity, dust pollution, irresponsibly disposal, affecting the local industry status quo and living environment. However, the traditional concept of ceramic recycling only means to smash the waste and put them back into the raw materials for porcelain production. Limited by the viscosity pottery clay requires, the porcelain waste powder that can be utilized is not much. In the Wreck Experiment, we managed to carry out a different attempt: change the way of placing porcelain aggregate so as to improve the utilization of porcelain wastes and production speed and develop the possibility of assembled furniture with both artistic and practicable features. As designers, can we reshape both the material and decorum in this unbalanced reality?

As an important part of the experiment, BENTU teamed up with Shenzhen Design Week, the exhibition activity supported by Shenzhen Municipal People’s Government, and curated the “WRECK — Concept Exhibition of Wasted Daily-use Ceramics from Chaozhou, China”, which ended on April 20 in Shenzhen. The exhibition site consisted of the experimental furniture and a 7-meter-long artistic installation stacked with ceramic waste collected from Chaozhou daily-use ceramic factories. With video and intro, he audiences were exposed to direct view of world’s largest ceramic industry base as well as the wrecked culture and decorum behind tremendous capacity and commercial value.

Communication and interaction with the public come from various walks of life through the concept exhibition was a pleasing result of our experiment, and hopefully a foreseeable start of restoring social order. Including social elite, school students even common people, the public with their surprise, question, advise and encouragement was the one who broke down the already fragile fact then turned it into sharper point of view. The moment people touched the ceramic pieces or slightly adjusted the exhibits, thoughts and emotions provoked were flowing in a much finer form among them, and we believe that these tiny thoughts and emotions will eventually converge and be powerful enough to affect the social reality.