Manchester's Neil Conley has recently designed two series of housewares that address what is arguably the most significant environmental issue of our time: dependence on petroleum. With "Snow Global" and "Oil," Conley has done a remarkable job infusing concrete objects with concepts. (Some of our readers may have had the chance to see his work in person at the ICFF; unfortunately, I didn't have the good fortune to happen upon them.)
"Snow Global"—"a series of snow globes created in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 2010"—takes a familiar novelty item and reimagines it as a microcosmic oil spill. Both color and content are totally inverted, a subversive twist on the physical gesture of inverting the toy in one's hand.
["Snow Global" embodies] the throw-away, novel plastic gifts that have become one of the oil industries many parasites—whilst in the same breath, act as a warped preservation of the wildlife affected by the spill and its inherent beauty.
Each globe contains a hand carved miniature of a species directly affected by the disaster: the Brown Pelican, Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle, and the Bottlenose Dolphin. Each of the miniatures was carved by hand by Conley from brass...
For each Globe sold, 18% percent of the sale price is donated to the ongoing clean-up in the region.
The second (less cleverly-titled) collection, "Oil," is at once more and less abstract: here, Conley approaches staggering statistics about oil consumption through scale alone. The form of the vases obviously refers to drums of oil, in direct proportion of consumption:Each vase represents a nation, with a volume directly relative to its oil consumption... USA, China, UK, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo... Each nation was specifically chosen due to its comparative stage of, dependence on, and involvement in oil exploitation.
From left to right: USA, China, U.K, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo
Both pieces are excellent examples of how "things that look like other things" can actually be more meaningful than the things themselves.